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Lesson #2: “So what if it’s just fun?”
Once the prototype was completed, the trio thought they had something compelling. "Early on someone said ‘Twitter is fun but it isn't useful,'" recalls Stone. "Ev said, ‘Neither is ice cream.' So what if it's just fun?"
From the beginning, the co-founders approached their company a little differently than most. They did not know how they were going to make a profit from it, and they were not sure who exactly would use it. But what they did know was that they liked using it.
"There are different ways to approach startups," says Williams. "One thing I admired about Google is we said, ‘This thing is huge, and we're going to kick ass at it.'...The other approach is ‘This might be a thing if we pull it off.'"
"I ran into this when we were at Google with Blogger," he says. "People asked how big is the market for blogging. I said, ‘I don't know, but if we make it awesome lots of people would do it.' With Twitter there is no market, other than we knew it was cool."
Stone admits, "If anything we sort of thought it was a waste of time. Some of our engineers thought it was a waste of time."
The turning point for Twitter came during a South By Southwest festival. "SXSW 2007 was a huge watershed moment for us," says Stone. "For the first time, we saw real potential in the tool. We saw people tweeting about a good session to go to."
Today, despite the popularity of the service and the new near-celebrity status of its founders, the three entrepreneurs have managed to keep themselves in check. Why? Because they are just having fun.
"I send updates a few times per day, at most," says Stone. "I think when people Twitter 20 or 30 times per day that's too much. They are boxing everyone else out, and people stop following them because they need a break."
Still, they continue to enjoy all that their business has brought to them, including a new vocabulary. "It's pretty cool to invent a technology with its own set of descriptive terms," says Stone. "People ‘twitter' and ‘tweet' and someone came up with the word ‘twoops' to refer to a message you meant to text your friend, but you sent it to Twitter by accident."
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