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Twitter CEO talks Ferguson, Diversity and Career Milestones at Platform Summit

Tech visionary Jack Dorsey was the much-anticipated closing keynote speaker at the Platform Summit in Atlanta, where he offered a candid assessment of his career milestones and thoughts on diversity in the tech sector.

In a special extended interview (albeit virtually) with Hank Williams, the founder of Platform, Dorsey, 38, admits he is still coming to terms with the immense impact Twitter has had on digital activism and freedom of expression.

“The first real moment for me was the Iranian protests around the elections,” said Twitter Inc. co-founder Dorsey, who sent the first tweet in 2006 when the social networking service went live. “Suddenly everyone on the street was sharing, showing, and posting videos of what was happening around them.”

“Even more amazing, anyone around the world could reach out and have a conversation with anyone in Iran that was on Twitter. That had not happened before. Just the ease of access and how small the world felt at that moment was an order of magnitude more important to me than any one particular individual, whether they be a celebrity or public figure.”

In recent weeks, Dorsey has been making headlines primarily because he is at the helm of two major companies: CEO of mobile payments firm Square Inc. and interim chief executive of Twitter since Dick Costolo, CEO for five years, resigned in June.

On Monday, Dorsey was named permanent CEO of Twitter. The appointment marks his second stint at the role. He was Twitter’s first CEO until he was dumped in 2008 after a rocky tenure. Unsurprisingly, there has been continuous speculation that leading two tech heavyweights simultaneously will be a difficult and immensely challenging task.

Still, along with Dorsey’s obvious desire to run Twitter the billionaire techpreneur is evidently passionate about his achievements at Square. During Sunday’s interview, he reminded attendees that the services provided by Square are simple tools to facilitate economic empowerment and level the playing field in the financial services industry.

“So that’s what we’re addressing, is how to build leaner, simple, fast financial services for everyone no matter what their background or circumstances. It’s a financial service that is a whole lot more affordable and a whole lot more fair than visiting a bank.”

Now in its third year – the second time at Ray Charles Performing Arts Center at Morehouse College. – Platform focuses on diversifying the technology industry and innovation economy. The 2015 Summit is a partnership with Morehouse College and Georgia Tech.

Dorsey acknowledges that Twitter, much like many of the other major tech firms, has more work to do to improve workforce diversity. “I don’t think there’s one single answer,” he said. “First and foremost it’s having the intent to be more inclusive. It’s bringing a whole lot more awareness to what needs to be fixed, what needs to be talked about, having a conversation, showing both the positive and certainly negative because we need to see both to find a balance in the middle.”

“We have to continue to invest and we have to continue to be inclusive – and we better – by looking more and more like our customers, people who are using our services every single day, and looking for that unexpected potential and setting the tone throughout the company, not just folks who are programming but also at board level as well.

In June, Square appointed basketball legend Magic Johnson to its board of directors. “One of the things we’re really proud of is adding Magic Johnson to Square’s board of directors,” said Dorsey. “He’s been spending the past 20 years convincing CEOs to build in underserved communities and to serve the underbanked.”

“Secondly, I don’t think Silicon Valley has to be at the center of everything. We can’t rely on one geography to provide innovation. I don’t think it’s even true that’s where it’s all coming from. It’s where a lot of focus is and a lot of attention is.

“We see innovation, and we see drive and invention all over the country and we need to invest a whole lot more in that. One of the things that we did recently at Square is we just announced a new office in St. Louis, Missouri, and we’re going to employ over 200 people in that office.”

His company, Square, also runs coding camps for young women who want to pursue careers in engineering and programming.

Dorsey was born and raised in St. Louis. Last August, he was among the throngs of people protesting in Ferguson, Missouri. He explained that he grew up in St. Louis, a 15-minute drive away from where 18-year-old Michael Brown was killed by a police officer.

“What I saw when the news of Ferguson broke was something that was not unique to Ferguson. It was something that I knew was happening all over the city. I wanted to be there to show that this is an issue for the entire city, this is an issue for the entire country, this is an issue that we’re seeing around the world and it’s something we need to talk about.”

(Image: Jack Dorsey: stock photo)

Follow Kunbi Tinuoye on Twitter@Kunbiti





    Kunbi Tinuoye
    Kunbi Tinuoye
    Kunbi Tinuoye is the founder and CEO of UrbanGeekz. Previously, she worked as a News Correspondent for NBC’s theGrio. Prior, she was a senior broadcast journalist for the BBC in London. Tinuoye currently sits on the SXSW Pitch Advisory Board and CES Conference Advisory Board. She is a key player in the Atlanta tech startup ecosystem and serves as a mentor for Comcast NBCUniversal’s The Farm Accelerator. Tinuoye has received several awards and accolades, including being honored with a Resolution from the Georgia Legislative.