From my Forbes.com blog The New Persuaders:
With Twitter apparently on a path to profits, or at least revenues, two of its cofounders are now on to other things. Biz Stone’s and Evan Williams’ new company is Obvious, whose motto on its spare website is “We do various things.” A bit more specifically (but not much), Obvious’ goal is to “build systems that help people work together to make the world a better place.” Its first effort, called Medium, might be viewed as Twitter 2.0, seeking to figure out what to do with the firehose of information Twitter has helped create.
In a “fireside chat” with Hunter Walk, a Google director of product management working at YouTube, at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco today, Stone and Williams fleshed out their vision, admitted they didn’t get everything right at Twitter, and offered advice on how to build Internet companies today:
Q: You don’t still work at Twitter, right?
Williams: I’m on the board, but we don’t work at Twitter.
Q: It’s not an incubator, not an investment fund, and you’re building Medium. So what is Obvious?
Stone: It’s an excuse for me and Ev to work together. Really cool, good stuff comes from an organic atmosphere of working on things. We do whatever it takes to help people and projects philosophically aligned with us succeed.
We have marketing capabilities, design and engineering prowess, and money, and we deploy them wherever it makes sense.
A: Now you are older and wiser and wealthier, and parents. How does that change how you run a company?
Williams: I tried to be a ski bum when I left Twitter, but it didn’t work. We’re driven to do interesting things in the world. We decided to let it evolve as the products evolve, figure it out organically as we go. That’s satisfying. It’s a hell of a lot more fun than skiing every day.
Q: The first product you’ve come out with is Medium.
Williams: We came out with a preview, not a real product yet, a few weeks ago. We have a team of engineers working on it every day.
Medium is essentially a publishing platform, along the lines of what we’ve done before, with Xanga and Blogger. We’ve been obsessed with the democratization of media on the Internet. We just thought there’s still more stuff to do.
Q: Only a select few can publish on Medium. Why?
Williams: We want to help high-quality content succeed and get attention. Not everybody can write. It’s not to limit who can publish. It just happens to be we launched in private beta. It’s hard to throw open the doors in closed beta. It’s definitely not the ethos of Medium to be closed in any way.
Stone: We learned a few things about opening up the doors….
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