Following my Sunday column, “Who will be Silicon Valley’s next Steve Jobs?” the most common response I got was: Why wasn’t Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey on the list? That was echoed in comments, tweets and emails.
In fact, I did strongly consider Dorsey. But ultimately, I dropped him.
There are certainly many intriguing parallels between the Twitter co-founder and Jobs. Like Jobs, Dorsey created a remarkable technology company that has had huge impact. And while there are several people considered co-founders of Twitter, Dorsey is usually credited with the concept, and the development. And, of course, he was the first CEO of Twitter before being pushed aside a couple of years ago — just like Jobs!
Rather than sulk and withdraw, Dorsey started another company, Square, a mobile payment service that has shown strong growth, attracting a recent venture round of $100 million that values the company at $1.6 billion.
And then, Dorsey made a triumphant return to Twitter earlier this year to lead product development, while remaining CEO of Square. Again, shades of Jobs, with his creation of NeXT, his role at Pixar, and then returning to Apple at first as an advisor.
And certainly, many others have made the Dorsey-Jobs connection. For instance, BetaBeat recently wrote:
“What we were startled by was the growing feeling feeling that there’s something about Mr. Dorsey that just sounds so familiar. A heavy emphasis on clean design. A charismatic presence at public announcements… wait a minute: @jack is kinda like a young Steve Jobs. Apple has even started selling Square in their retail stores.”
So, why didn’t I put him on the list? Part of it was the conceit of the list. I needed to keep it narrowly defined to be able to make comparisons, and so I decided to stick to people who were all CEOs. Yes, Dorsey is the CEO of Square, but that’s not why he’s such a big figure at the moment. Square is still tiny in impact compared to Twitter. It’s his role at Twitter, both as co-founder and now lead product designer that makes him a figure of note.
And in that regard, Twitter is still a mixed bag for me. The company still has scant revenue, and is still struggling to get its arms around a complex set of design and feature issues. The most interesting things about Twitter are often built by third parties, and the company needs to redefine its relationship with its ecsystem.
If Dorsey sorts all of that out, and he helps create a core, unified Twitter experience, then he’s certainly on the path to demonstrating a Jobs-like prowess. And if he can actually help the company figure out a business model, and even return to the CEO chair, then I think he’s someone to be considered for legendary status.
Everyone on that list has a lot to prove to be considered heir to Jobs’ legacy. But right now, compared to other folks on the list, Dorsey has even further to go.