“In order to succeed spectacularly, you need to be willing to fail spectacularly.” This is one of the first lessons Biz Stone, a co-founder of Twitter, shared when opening his General Session talk at the PRSA 2012 International Conference in San Francisco.
Stone openly discussed the lessons he learned throughout his childhood, younger years, and career. He attended high school in Wellesley, Mass., where he wanted to play sports. After realizing he was intimidated by basketball, he did some research and found his school did not offer a lacrosse team. He then took it upon himself to find players and coach to create the team. Despite the obstacles faced along the way, the team excelled. The key lesson he learned here was, “Opportunity can be manufactured.”
Stone learned another important life lesson after dropping out of college at the University of Massachusetts to design book covers in Boston. He learned, “Creativity is a renewable resource.” He knew that if the sales and editorial teams didn’t like a design, there was always a new one to be created.
When the publishing company relocated to New York, Stone took a different path. He decided to move West where his team created Xanga. This role eventually landed him a position at Google where he met the men who would later become the other founders of Twitter, Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey.
When Williams decided to move from Google to Odeo, a podcasting company, Stone joined him. Stone said, “You really have to be emotionally invested in your company in order for it to succeed.” Stone realized the podcasting business was not a career he wanted to keep pursuing. This is what led to the desire of wanting to create a new business. Stone, Dorsey, and an engineer teamed up and Twitter was born in two weeks. “We showed it to our colleagues and they were underwhelmed,” Stone said. People thought it was a terrible idea and did not see the potential that was in store. When someone remarked, “Twitter is not useful.” Williams responded with, “Neither is ice cream.” The reason for the 140 characters? The answer is quite simple. He wanted tweets to be SMS compatible, and to be able to leave room for the author’s name.
Stone first realized the power of twitter when he was at a crowded festival, and a man in a bar tweeted that he was going to go someone else. Within eight minutes, people followed to the same location. This reminded Stone of birds and how they flock together. The big lesson learned here was the triumph of change. “If we were to be a triumph, then we were not just to be a triumph of technology, Twitter was going to be a triumphant of humanity,” Stone said. He explained that people are good, and if you give them the right tools they will prove it on a daily basis.