Twitter co-founder Evan Williams is one of the largest shareholders in Twitter. Once Twitter goes public, it could propel Williams into multi-billionaire status. Williams reportedly owns 15% of Twitter, which is more than co-founder and chairman Jack Dorsey. Dorsey is known for coming up with the idea for the real-time mass text messages. Williams owns the company that Twitter was born in called Odeo.
Currently on the private markets, Twitter’s valuation is pegged at $10.5 billion. If the company goes public with the same valuation, Williams will gain around $1.5 billion. If the market cap is higher than that, Williams’ wealth will skyrocket.
Before launching Twitter, Williams sold Blogger to Google for somewhere between $20 and $50 million. The current CEO of Twitter, Dick Costolo, sold FeedBurner to Google for $100 million.
When Twitter was a young company, Williams made some moves to become the largest shareholder. Back in September 2006, Williams wrote a letter to Odeo’s investors saying that the company was not going anywhere and he was feeling bad about it. This is why he bought back their shares so they would not see a loss.
“By the way, Twitter (http://twitter.com), which you may have read about, is one of the pieces of value that I see in Odeo, but it’s much too early to tell what’s there. Almost two months after launch, Twitter has less than 5,000 registered users. I will continue to invest in Twitter, but it’s hard to say it justifies the venture investment Odeo certainly holds — especially since that investment was for a different market altogether,” said Williams in the letter back then.
The investors agreed to the buyback. Williams bought back Odeo and Twitter, but the amount he spent was undisclosed. Investors put in around $5 million into Odeo and it is likely that they got their money back.
Twitter was worth $5 billion five years after that based on term sheets provided by venture capitalists. That is one-thousand times higher than the $5 million that Odeo’s investors spent initially.