Biz Stone: From His Mom's Basement To Cofounding Twitter

Apr 1 2014, 4:33pm CDT | by

Biz Stone: From His Mom's Basement To Cofounding Twitter
Photo Credit: Forbes Business

I recently caught up with Biz Stone, who released his first book today called Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind. It’s part memoir and part entrepreneurship advice book. Stone has been there and done that and spills out his big mistakes, success milestones and advice to upcoming entrepreneurs. For the past decade, Stone has been developing large scale projects that facilitate the open exchange of information. He is the cofounder of Twitter, Inc and advisor to several technology startups. Recruited by Google in the early 2000′s, Stone met and collaborated with Evan Williams–the pair would later exit the search company to work on their own startup. Twitter was founded in 2007. Stone has been recognized by Time Magazine as one of the most influential persons in the world. His latest venture, Jelly. which has created a new way to search with photos, maps, friends, and more through a mobile application. You can follow Stone on Twitter @biz.

In the following interview, he talks about his early struggles, how he learned to manufacture his own opportunities, his relationship with the other Twitter co-founders, the importance of constraint when it comes to creativity, and why you should be authentic on Twitter.

Dan Schawbel: You talk about your struggle with money and living with your parents early on in your career. Do you think this helped fuel your entrepreneurial spirit?

Biz Stone: Having to live in your Mom’s basement in your 20′s is definitely a strong motivator to get something else going on in your life but I think it’s different from the entrepreneurial spirit. The urge to make something new, to build a team around it, momentum around it—that comes from a different place. My spirit is provoked by a urge to create and collaborate.

Schawbel: One of the main points you make throughout the book is that you can actually manufacture your own opportunities. Can you explain that?

Stone: People often refer to the dictionary definition of opportunity, “a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something.” What I’m suggesting througout the book with real world examples is that we don’t have to wait around for opportunity. When the circumstances themselves are created by you, then you are in a unique position to take advantage. That’s what I mean by opportunity can be manufactured.

Schawbel: You have a very strong relationship with your Twitter co-founders. Can you describe their strengths, how your strengths mesh with theirs and some of the obstacles you faced while working together?

Stone: I tend to stay closely connected with people who constantly inspire me, teach me things, and help me grow. Both Jack and Ev continue to help me grow into a better person in various ways. Jack is extremely supportive of my current startup, Jelly. An area where I have traditionally been both weak and strong is leadership. I have a theory that humor is one of the best delivery mechanisms of truth but very often I lean on humor too much.

My frequent talks with Jack almost amount to executive coaching as well as just catching up and having fun. Ev has always been supportive of my “head in the clouds” approach to coming up with new ideas—I’d say he gives me more patience than I deserve. Ev serves as a grounding influence for me. We don’t just meet personally to catch up, we get our wives and children together. These days Ev’s grounding influence doesn’t just help me in my business life, but in fatherhood as well.

Schawbel: In chapter four you say that “constraint inspires creativity.” What gave you that idea and do you think limiting messages to 140 characters was the core reason why Twitter took off?

Stone: The power of constraint and it’s ability to inspire creativity occurred to me when I was very young. I found myself struggling to come up with something to draw when presented with a full box of crayons and a blank sheet of paper. I would ask someone to tell me what to draw and use only one color and every time, that did the trick—even if I ended up drawing something other than what they had suggested, it got me going.

The limit of 140 characters had a big impact on helping Twitter succeed because it meant that tweets could be universally consumed and composed on any computer, any smartphone, and any low-end feature phone. The limit is also less intimidating—the barrier to entry is lower.

Schawbel: One of the big challenges for Twitter users today (versus when it started) is standing out in an endless pool of tweets. What are your recommendations for people on how to stand out on Twitter?

Stone: Contrary to popular belief, I’m not an expert on how best to stand out on any social media platform. All the advice I can give is to say that when you use these services with authenticity, meaning, and have a little fun, you’re doing it right. Whether or not you stand out has more to do with your own personality than any secret recipe or technique.

Dan Schawbel is a speaker and best-selling author. Subscribe to his newsletter. 

Source: Forbes Business


Don't miss ...


<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.


blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

WhatsApp behind half of Italian divorce cases: Attorney group
Rome, Nov 20 (IANS) Almost half of the divorce cases in Italy rely at least in part on information gathered through the instant messaging service WhatsApp, according to the Italian Association of Matrimonial Lawyers.
Modi among contenders for Time's Person of the Year
New York, Nov 20 (IANS) Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in the list of 50 contenders for Time magazine's Person of the Year.
Atomic clock that fits in your pocket
Washington, Nov 20 (IANS) Researchers, including an Indian-origin scientist, are working on a highly accurate atomic clock the size of a Rubik's cube, measuring about 2 inches in each dimension.
New insight into cells may lead to better drugs
London, Nov 20 (IANS) In a significant revelation that may help scientists create better drugs, a team of British researchers have found how different types of immune cells communicate with each other and how they kill cancerous or infected cells.

Latest from the Network

Drone attack in Pakistan kills five suspected militants
Islamabad, Nov 21 (IANS) At least five suspected militants, including what sources claim to be a high value target, were killed in a US drone attack in Pakistan's North Waziristan region Thursday, media reported....
Read more on Politics Balla
Mike Nichols, director of 'The Graduate', dies at 83
Washington, Nov 20 (IANS/EFE) Mike Nichols, whose 1967 film "The Graduate" earned him an Oscar as best director, has died, media reported Thursday. He was 83. "He was a true visionary, winning the highest honors in...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Myanmar military launches counter-attack against armed group
Yangon, Nov 20 (IANS) The Myanmar government said Thursday that its troops had launched a counter-attack on the ethnic Kachin Independence Army (KIA) after the armed group disrupted their normal movement. The...
Read more on Politics Balla
Iraqi forces retake town from IS
Baghdad, Nov 20 (IANS) Iraqi security forces Thursday retook control of a town from Islamic State (IS) militant group in eastern Iraq, and are fighting to seize another in the west, security sources said. In Iraq's...
Read more on Politics Balla
Turkey to cooperate with Iraq in fighting IS: Iraqi PM
Baghdad, Nov 20 (IANS) Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said Thursday that Turkey has offered military cooperation to fight the Islamic State(IS) militant group. "There is an agreement on information exchange and...
Read more on Politics Balla
Hostilities, human rights violations continue in Ukraine: OHCHR
Geneva, Nov 20 (IANS) Hostilities, human rights violations and abuses continued in eastern Ukraine despite the announcement of the Sep 5 ceasefire, a report released by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human...
Read more on Politics Balla
Carrie Underwood learned baby news at dinner
Carrie Underwood learned she was expecting a baby boy while having dinner with her husband. The 'Something In the Water' singer and spouse Mike Fisher are expecting their first child together but felt the sonographer's...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Keira Knightley's fan fear
Keira Knightley finds Benedict Cumberbatch's fans terrifying. The 29-year-old actress insists her 'Imitation Game' co-star's devoted female followers - who are dubbed 'The Cumberbitches' - are ''lovely'' but she finds...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Sheryl Crow selling boots for charity
Sheryl Crow is selling her cowboy boots for charity. The 'Soak Up The Sun' hitmaker has decided to offload the clothes, shoes and accessories she no longer wears on eBay's Charity Shop to raise money for the Feeding...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
Charlie Day has Zac Efron shrine
Charlie Day has a Zac Efron shrine in his house. The 'Horrible Bosses' 2' star lives next door to the 27-year-old actor and fans of the hunk often get confused which house is his so they end up leaving their love...
Read more on Celebrity Balla