One of the most interesting articles I’ve read in a while was “Twitter Founder Reveals Secret Formula for Getting Rich Online.” It covers a talk Evan Williams (Founder of Twitter, Blogger, and Medium) gave about how to build successful products. Here are the points that stood out to me and my commentary:
“At a time when so many internet entrepreneurs are running around Silicon Valley trying to do something no one else has ever done, Williams believes that the real trick is to find something that’s tried and true — and to do it better.”
-This made me realize that while many products, including Twitter, may seem to be “new experiences,” they’re actually just tapping into existing behaviors and make them better. I’ve also been fascinated with “second mover” businesses lately.
“the internet is “a giant machine designed to give people what they want.” It’s not a utopia. It’s not magical. It’s simply an engine of convenience. Those who can tune that engine well — who solve basic human problems with greater speed and simplicity than those who came before — will profit immensely. Those who lose sight of basic human needs — who want to give people the next great idea — will have problems.”
-I love the idea of targeting a validated problem/use case instead of just an “idea.”
“We often think of the internet enables you to do new things,” Williams said. “But people just want to do the same things they’ve always done.”
-Interesting to see how this manifests itself in the recently successful technology companies. For example, Uber.
“The internet makes human desires more easily attainable. In other words, it offers convenience,” he said. “Convenience on the internet is basically achieved by two things: speed, and cognitive ease.” In other words, 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.”
-I wonder if/how this will affect people going forward.
The key to making a fortune online, Williams told the XOXO crowd, is to remove extra steps from common activities
-You can see countless examples of this in successful technology companies: Blogger, Google, Uber, Amazon, etc.
“Here’s the formula if you want to build a billion-dollar internet company,” he 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.”
-He makes it sound so simple lol. That may be all you have to do, but finding the right opportunity is still pretty hard. The first example that comes to mind of a recent product that supports a human desire is Snapchat but there are many including Twitter.
“[Agriculture] made life better. It not only got people fed, it freed them up to do many more things — to create art and invent things.”
-While the automation and “disruption” going on right now may be destroying jobs, I do believe in the long-term it’s creating opportunities at an exponential rate for good entrepreneurs.
The rub is that we often take convenience too far. “Look at a country full of people who have had such convenient access to calories that they’re addicted, obese, and sick.” He likens this agricultural nightmare to our unhealthy obsession with internet numbers like retweets and likes and followers and friends. The internet wants to give them exactly what they’re looking for. And people who understand how to channel that tendency will be disproportionately powerful.
-The converse of the conversation from the quote above, is that people can get spoiled. I think we’ll see an increasing wealth gap between creators and consumers. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.