Masters of Scale: Evan Williams Podcast Notes

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Reid Hoffman, the founder of LinkedIn and the host of Masters of Scale Podcast sits down with Evan Williams, the co-founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium to talk about Evan’s vision of connecting the world’s brains for sharing information.

Evan Williams (@ev) was the guest on the Masters of Scale Episode 21 as he discussed his journey from the farm life in Nebraska to founding Internet companies that have had a huge impact on the world.

Here are our takeaways from the episode.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

  • Evan Williams was inspired by an article on the 2nd issue of the WIRED magazine that talked about the possibility of connecting the world’s brains for instantly publishing text and ideas. He got very excited.
  • Evan Williams started EvHead.com to capture his personal ideas while he was working for O’Riley Media
  • He recognized that the Internet was a bit complicated for everybody to use and started working on ‘Blogger’ to make publishing on the Internet easier.
  • As the seed funding of $500,000 dwindled towards the end of 2000, Evan Williams’ co-founder and the team left, leaving Evan to work on Blogger by himself.
  • Evan worked for 2 years alone on Blogger before Google came along and bought it in 2003.
  • Evan launched Odeo with Biz Stone as a Podcast Publishing Platform to promote the discovery and creation of podcasts
  • Apple launched Podcasts integrated into iTunes before Odeo could make a move and hence Evan and team started to look for other options
  • A Hackathon at Odeo brought out the possibility of working on a new side project created by Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey which would later become Twitter
  • In April 2007, Twitter spun off from Odeo and became a standalone platform disseminating information from people around the world
  • Evan’s entire focus on the product and direction of the company missed him from investing time with the people at work
  • Evan stepped down and Dick Costello became the CEO of Twitter
  • In 2012, Evan started Medium, a platform for publishing medium length articles online with the network effects that people wanted
  • Evan continues his mission towards connecting the world’s brains through the Internet and the effect that it would have on the society

REID HOFFMAN QUOTES

  • “You shouldn’t feel fatigued by the repetition, instead you should celebrate your single-mindedness, your focus.”
  • “I believe you can never know the full reach of your first idea. It could span your entire career.”
  • “You keep going because every single thing you do is in service of your vision.”

EVAN WILLIAMS DISCOVERING COMPUTERS

  • Growing up in a farm outside Nebraska, Evan Williams’ father was one of the earliest adopters of computers and he had an IBM PC with some spreadsheet software and farm software on it. Though Evan tried to understand it, he couldn’t at the time.
  • Evan was in high school when he came across Apple II computers and was fascinated with them
  • The mandatory basic programming classes in the Sophomore year made him sit in the computer lab with computers for hours – sometimes even when the lights went off and the school shut down.

CONNECTING THE BRAINS ON THE PLANET

  • Evan Williams picked up the second-ever issue of the WIRED Magazine and read about the possibility of connecting the world’s brains for instantly sharing text and ideas. He got very excited.
  • Since the Internet then was not easily accessible by many people, he created a VHS tape video explaining how to use the Internet.

THE BIRTH OF BLOGGING

  • While working for O’Riley Media, Evan Williams started EvHead.com to capture his personal ideas
  • The need for a platform for people to share their ideas propelled Evan to start ‘Blogger’
  • Blogger was started as a web application for creating and managing weblogs.
  • The term “blogger” was coined by Evan Williams and he has been instrumental in the popularization of the term “blog”.
  • After the $500,000 seed funding dwindled towards the end of 2000, Evan Williams was left alone to work on Blogger as all of his employees including the Co-Founder left.
  • After two years of working alone on Blogger, Google acquired it in 2003 and brought Evan Williams on board.

ODEO AND TWITTER

  • Evan started Odeo, a Podcast discovery and creation platform with Biz Stone in 2005
  • Odeo secured $5 million in funding
  • However, Apple released Podcast integrated into iTunes before Odeo could make a major move
  • A Hackathon at Odeo gave birth to the idea of Twitter which was conceived by Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey
  • In April 2007, Twitter spun off as an individual entity from Odeo

THE SUCCESS OF TWITTER

  • Evan Williams had been critical about the mentioning Twitter as a Social Network. He maintained that Twitter was an Information Network and Social Networking was a subset of it.
  • By 2010, Twitter gained huge popularity and was a success
  • Evan Williams missed investing time with people as he was obsessed with the product and the direction of the company.  He stepped down as Dick Costello became the CEO of Twitter.

FOUNDING MEDIUM

  • The need for a managed platform for medium length articles with network effects made Evan Williams work again on his dream of connecting the world’s minds through an Internet tool. This gave birth to Medium in 2012.
  • Medium is in its 7th year connecting minds around the world through informative, engaging, and thought-provoking articles published on the platform
  • Evan had essentially focused on the same problem throughout most of his career. Pursuing the idea of connecting minds through the Internet has been the arc of his entrepreneurial journey.

OUR THOUGHTS

We loved how Evan Williams, through all the hardships during his entrepreneurial days, stuck to his passion and worked on something he believed had the potential to bring the minds on the planet together to create a big thinking machine.

Reid Hoffman did a brilliant job of taking us on the overarching journey of Evan Williams’ mission that has resulted in the creation of hugely impactful platforms on the Internet.

As we close the notes for the episode, we are reminded of the quote from Reid Hoffman from the episode, “I believe you can never know the full reach of your first idea. It could span your entire career.

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