Evan Williams, co-founder of Twitter, at the LAUNCH Festival 2013.
On the 19th to 22nd September 2013, Evan Williams became one of the favorite speakers at the XOXO arts and tech conference in Portland, Oregon when he told the gathering of tech heads he has figured out the Internet and the secret to getting rich online. While he may have said this with tongue partly in cheek, his reputation as serial entrepreneur—to say nothing of his experience founding Twitter and Blogger—made his words potent.
In 1994, Williams (born March 31, 1972) was a Nebraska college dropout who made a little money online selling tutorial videos to help people get onto the net. He then moved on to co-found Blogger and then Twitter—two big hitters that have changed the Internet as we know it. After leaving Twitter in 2011, he helped incubate, among other things, the blog network Medium.
In the recent Twitter IPO, the company filed under the handle TWTR in the New York stock exchange with more than 200 million monthly active users and $317 million annual revenue. It later emerged that Evan Williams is the biggest single stockholder with 12 percent of the company even though he doesn’t work there anymore. This revelation leaves no doubt who is getting billionaire-rich off the IPO.
Williams said people often think of the Internet as a magical place where they can do what they want. But in reality it's an "engine of convenience" which should be used as such. “The Internet makes human desires more easily attainable. In other words, it offers convenience,” he said in Oregon.
“Convenience on the Internet is basically achieved by two things: speed and cognitive ease.” People don’t want to wait, and they don’t want to think — and the internet should respond to that. “If you study what the really big things on the Internet are, you realize they are masters at making things fast and not making people think.”
Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple excel at delivering this sort of convenience, Williams said. These tech companies were all excellent in removing steps from what had once been a complex series of actions from the get go. See Google (finding things), Amazon (buying things), Facebook (communicating things) and Apple (also communicating things).
Williams said this was precisely the trick he used to build his first big Internet invention, Blogger. Blogger was created to change how people put new content on the web. Instead of creating a new document, saving it, manually uploading it, and viewing it in a web browser, people could simply type their content into a web form and click “publish.”
“Here’s the formula if you want to build a billion-dollar internet company,” Williams said. “Take a human desire, preferably one that has been around for a really long time…Identify that desire and use modern technology to take out steps.” In other words, find something you love, and make it easier.
Sounds like great advice to us. Genius is usually simple. What do you think?
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by Hugh MacLeod
Ever wonder what it really takes to make a living as a creative person in today's complicated world?
MacLeod presents some witty keys for creative success, including "ignore everybody. Why should you "ignore everybody"?
Because, he writes, nobody else can tell you whether your idea is worthwhile. People can give you advice, but at the end of the day, it's your decision. The more original an idea, the less helpful the advice is going to be.
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