The Stupidest Answer In The World

There’s a great article in the NY Times Magazine section today about Obama’s quest to win the white male vote which was written by Matt Bai. In it Obama addresses the "bitter quote":

“That was my biggest boneheaded move,” Obama told me recently. We were
sitting across from each other on his plane, the one with the big red,
white and blue “O” on the tail, flying some 35,000 feet above Nebraska.
“How it was interpreted in the press was Obama talking to a bunch of
wine-sipping San Francisco liberals with an anthropological view toward
white working-class voters. And I was actually making the reverse
point, clumsily, which is that these voters have a right to be
frustrated because they’ve been ignored. And because Democrats haven’t
met them halfway on cultural issues, we’ve not been able to communicate
to them effectively an economic agenda that would help broaden our
coalition.”

I made a boneheaded move this week as well with this quote to Chris Snyder of Wired which he reported yesterday:

“It’s like the stupidest question in the world: How’s Twitter going to
make money?," said Union Square Ventures’ Fred Wilson, another
investor. "It’s like ‘How was Google going to make money?’

The minute I said it, I wanted it back. But it reflects my weariness with getting this question every time anyone asks me about Twitter (as well as the fact that I had flown back from SF the night before and gotten up at 6am to do a board call to London that day). Rule #1, don’t talk to the press when you are tired and irritated.

It is not the stupidest question in the world. It’s a terribly important question. But I don’t think it’s the most important question facing Twitter right now. Twitter has yet to cross the chasm to mainstream usage. It’s not immediately obvious to anyone why they should use Twitter. Search and discovery doesn’t work well on Twitter yet. There are a host of issues about the API and the developer ecosystem. Will recent reliability success continue? Can Twitter’s architecture scale now? All of these questions loom large in my mind.

As I said in the post I wrote on the Union Square Ventures blog when we first invested in Twitter,

The question everyone asks is "What is the business model?" To be completely and totally honest, we don’t yet know.

The capital we are investing will go to making Twitter a better,
more reliable and robust service. That’s what the focus needs to be
right now. We’ll have plenty of time to figure out the business model
and there are many options to choose from.

That’s not entirely true anymore. Twitter has plenty of ideas on how to make money and as my friend Bijan Sabet, the other Twitter VC board member, told Chris (he handled himself a lot better than I did):

“I think it’s very normal and expected for people in this economy,
saying ‘when is Twitter going to show us how it can generate revenue,’
and the answer is ‘stay tuned, and they’re working on it,”

Twitter is working on the revenue question. And I expect we’ll all see at least one and possibly more revenue initiatives in the next year. I am not going to say more than that because it’s not my place to talk about Twitter’s business publicly.

But I do want to take back that quote. It was the stupidest answer in the world and I am sorry that I said it.

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