The creator of Twitter thinks it's worth tweeting what he had for breakfast.
Or so he told a Stanford University audience Wednesday (Feb. 9).
Though his breakfast menu is of no interest to the overwhelming majority of the people in the world, "it's extremely meaningful to my mother," 34-year-old Jack Dorsey told a mostly student audience in Stanford's new Jen-Hsun Huang Engineering Center.
He said he likes that people can use Twitter from a small scale to a global scale.
Dorsey, chairman of Twitter and founder of the mobile device credit card startup Square, spoke at Stanford's Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar.
In a talk that ranged from his childhood fascination with city maps to the inspiration he finds from Apple, he discussed the history of Twitter and the thinking behind his new venture -- which aims to make it easy for businesses as small as taco trucks and piano teachers to accept credit card payments.
As a boy growing up in St. Louis, Dorsey said the "hidden energy" of the city's downtown was a "joy and a wonder to me.
"I became obsessed by maps," he said.
"I put them all over my room, hung them all over the walls and would just look at them and wonder what was happening at this particular intersection, how to get down this road more efficiently."
With an early MacIntosh computer in the mid-1980s, Dorsey taught himself to create maps with dots on them, and move the dots around. His parents owned a police scanner and he began entering data about real cases into his computer.
Later, he found open databases of the information.
"Now I had a picture of real live data -- of a real live city -- operating in front of me. I thought it was the most beautiful thing ever. I could visualize a city living and breathing."
More than a decade later, Dorsey launched a crude attempt at urban networking, using a Blackberry and an e-mail list of friends.
"I wrote some simple software and typed an e-mail that said, 'I'm at Golden Gate Park watching the bison' and broadcast it out to all the people. First of all, no one cared and second, no one else had a Blackberry, so I was alone in my sending and receiving."
It wasn't until late 2005 and early 2006, while working for consumer podcasting company Odeo, that he sent the first real tweet, and the venture was spun off as Twitter.
"It's still a desire for me -- and now that more and more people are using (Twitter) all over the world, you can see even faster what's unfolding in the world," Dorsey said.
"It really comes down to curiosity about what's happening right now, everywhere, and being the pulse of what's happening right now everywhere."
Akin to his joy in visualizing the life of a whole city, Dorsey said his new venture, Square, leads him to visualizing financial transactions.
"Imagine a visualization of money flowing from one place to another place," he said.
"We want to make payments feel amazing, this exchange of value feel awesome."
Dorsey said a major lesson he's learned as an entrepreneur is the power of a great story.
"If you want to build a product that's relevant to folks, you need to put yourself in their shoes and write a story from their side," he said.
"We want one epic and cohesive story we tell the world, and both Twitter and Square are striving toward this goal."
He cited Apple's Steve Jobs as a master storyteller.
"Apple is run like a theater company -- they have a great sense of pacing, great sense of story, great sense of execution. It's all event-driven and the billboards, keynotes, product launches all have a cohesive, end-to-end story.
"I've learned a lot from that company and others who operate in a similar fashion."
Dorsey said when he has a "shower moment" or an inspiration while walking at midnight in New York City, he's learned it's important to write it down.
"Draw it out, or code it, but you need to get it out of your head and see it on a surface that's not your mind," he said.
"Once you do that you can step back from it, say 'This passes my filter, maybe I can share it with some other people.'
"They'll be, like, 'This is the stupidest idea ever, or it's something interesting.' But the sooner you can do that, then you have momentum around it and can decide if you want to commit to it or put it on a shelf for a later date."
Asked whether he aspires to scale up the Square venture for use by larger retailers, Dorsey said it could be possible in the future -- similar to the way Twitter is used both on a what-I-had-for-breakfast scale as well as for global issues.
"I really like building utilities that scale from individual use all the way up to a larger use," he said.
"You can see this with Twitter, with people using it to talk about what they had for breakfast -- which is something that I do -- to having businesses and governments using it."
The Wall Street Journal reported Thursday that some potential acquirers are valuing Twitter between $8 billion and $10 billion, and that the company has held "low-level talks" with both Facebook and Google.
Stanford's Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders Seminar is co-sponsored by the venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson, the Stanford Technology Ventures Program and BASES, a student entrepreneurship group.