Barack Obama, CEO of a new startup: America

Bambi Francisco Roizen · November 5, 2008 · Short URL:

This is a startup I'm excited to invest in

 The numbers have been off, customer service is the pits and the strategy is unclear, so the board has decided to replace the CEO. No, it's not Twitter, it's America!

However, I was on setfive Consulting's site, which monitored who the Twitter users were voting for. I watched as one state went from light blue to dark blue. In fact, overall, the entire country was blue.

By late Tuesday evening at 8 pm pacific, when CNN declared Obama as President, and the crowd shouted and cheered in the bar I was sitting in, it seemed clear that, in fact, the sky may even seem more blue Wednesday morning.   

Does an Obama administration also bode well for entrepreneurship and innovation? I think so. Not for any technical reasons related to this-or-that policy, or who's better for Joe the unlicensed plumber, but because the engine of American innovation is optimism.

It's what has always pulled the best and brightest to this country. And, as long as it persists, it is what always will.

Admittedly, I have heretofore typically sported the red colors. I still favor Peggy Noonan's views over Maureen Dowd's, prefer less government rather than more and continue to be a social conservative.

However, I think Obama is going to bring the magic elixir of hope that the world so desperately needs right now, as well as a sense of energy, excitement and youth. Inspiration and leadership drive innovation. A different party, race and generation is already a quantum leap of change from the reigning and seemingly dynastic presidency.

In many ways, Obama is like the startup CEO – ready to fight for change and ready to inspire others to get up and make a change.

I'm not a tax expert, but I generally come from the school of thought that voting Blue means higher taxes and Red lower.  That said, as a newly-minted small businesses person myself, most entrepreneurs aren't looking at tax policy to dictate their business decisions. Tax policy is not determining whether I want to still push forward as an entrepreneur.

I highly doubt that Lance Tokuda, who raised $17 million this past week for RockYou, is determining how to iterate and build out his product based on the tax policies. I doubt the tens of thousands of entrepreneurs on are watching the capital gains tax rate to determine whether they should keep doing what they're doing.  They're doing it because they love to innovate. Of course, Obama's policy to cut capital gains taxes for investors in startups will give investors incentive to give new businesses what they need - capital.

In the end, we have to have measured faith that we in the private sector will do our part, and those in the public will do theirs, and in the end a great country will evolve.

As far as a view from the technology business goes, there's a lot that technology can bring to America's future – from expanding efforts to increase broadband and making government more transparent.

I actually support Sun Microsystem's Scott McNealy's plan of stapling a green card to every diploma.

And, some regulation is actually needed for innovation. For one, I believe Net Neutrality is critical for innovation. As for clean tech, Obama is going to put dollars to work with his proposal to create a Clean Technologies Development Venture Capital Fund, funded by annual $10 billion investment for five years.

In the end, if the current campaign is any evidence supporting who'd be on the cutting edge of technology and making some real changes, Obama is far ahead on the technology curve. Obama's team mobilized hundreds of thousands of people who've created 6,500 volunteer groups and submitted 15,000 policy ideas, according to an American Express Issue Guide. 

This is a startup I'm excited to invest in.

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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What is Twitter?

Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests. 

Where did the idea for Twitter come from?

Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.

How is Twitter built?

Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes. 

We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.

How do you make money from Twitter?

There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.

In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet. 

At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.

Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.


What's next for Twitter?

We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users. 

We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.


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