“TO SUCCEED SPECTACULARLY, YOU NEED TO BE WILLING TO FAIL SPECTACULARLY” — Biz Stone
At SXSW12, Twitter co-founder Biz Stone takes to Wim Wender’s “Wings of Desire” (not the Hollywood version ‘City of Angels’ as he points out) for a very valuable lesson for start-ups: Stop hedging and ‘go all in’. Listen. It’s brilliant.
He also remembers the birth hours of Twitter. Originally he had planned together with Evan Williams to become the “Kings of Podcasting” with Odeo - until they realized other people were doing it and Apple put podcasts into iTunes (which made sense).
Another (bigger) reason not to go down the podcasting road was that they weren’t really motivated to use it themselves. It didn’t “light their fire”. — Enter Jack Dorsey, an engineer who was writing dispatch software at the time and had an obsession with the idea to visualize the real-time pulse of a city. So, they married their ideas and built an early Twitter prototype to socialize and broadcast short (dispatch) messages. The rest is history.
However, the loudest initial critique was “Twitter is not useful” - to which Evan Williams once responded “Neither is ice cream. So should we ban ice cream?” Point taken. Florian Weber, one of the early Twitter developers and now a co-founder and CTO at Amen, told us in a previous interview about even harsher critique while he was helping to build Twitter from his German home-base. “Most people in Germany just thought it was plain stupid,” Weber mentioned. A good example that mass-popular services first and foremost need to be simple - and the users will find a way to make them valuable for themselves.
What Twitter really represents is power of free communication in the hands of people. Stone recalls an early anecdote when students in Moldavia took to Twitter to organize a student revolt and he was questioned about his involvement. By now Twitter is recognized as THE people powered tool for free speech to make the world aware of political protests all over the globe.
Stones biggest learning? “Change is not a triumph of technology, it’s a triumph of humanity.” Technology is only an enabler.