Office of the Vice President for Global Communications

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Re-tweet this: Twitter CEO and U-M alum Dick Costolo to speak on campus

Dick Costolo, chief executive officer of the giant social networking and microblog service Twitter, is the featured speaker for Policy Talks@the Ford School on Nov. 16.

The lecture is at 1 p.m. in the Rackham Graduate School Auditorium, 915 E. Washington, and will be webcast live.

  Dick Costolo

Costolo will discuss how he went from the trenches of computer science at the university to leading a world-changing company.

He'll cover how Twitter views communication and free expression in the modern world, and also plans to look back at the evolution of communications throughout history and Twitter's role in the future of global communication and democratized information.

Or, given his background, he may just decide to improvise.

Following his graduation from U-M in 1985 with a degree in computer science, Costolo declined offers from technology companies in favor of pursuing an interest in improvisational comedy. He joined the comedy troupe at Chicago's Annoyance Theater, subsidizing his performance career with management work at Andersen Consulting.

Technology ultimately reclaimed him full time, however, and he began to launch and then sell technology companies. His third and most successful company was FeedBurner, a web-feed management provider that he co-founded and eventually sold to Google in 2007 for $100 million.

The technology entrepreneur joined Twitter as chief operations officer in September 2009 at the invitation of longtime friend Evan Williams, then Twitter's CEO, who was looking for an interim replacement while on paternity leave.

Costolo's first Twitter update after joining the company read: "First full day as Twitter COO tomorrow. Task #1: undermine CEO, consolidate power."

A year later, he was Twitter's new chief executive, after Williams decided to step down to pursue other projects.

Since Costolo took the helm at Twitter, the service has amassed more than 140 million users across the globe, nearly tripled the number of its employees, and relocated its headquarters to San Francisco. It has also introduced "targeted paid tweets," advertising based on user interests revealed in tweets, to increase revenue.

In addition to being a growing business, Twitter has gained a reputation as an effective conduit of information, credited with providing communication channels during natural disasters and in part enabling the "Arab Spring" uprisings. The service allows people to spread information instantly all over the planet — a vital tool in an increasingly global society.

The School of Information and the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy are joint sponsors of the lecture, which is free and open to the public.