Feature: Page (1) of 1 - 09/06/11

Was Biz Stone Wrong to Leave Twitter?

Biz Stone surprised the tech world when he resigned as creative director of Twitter, the phenomenally successful micro-blogging site he helped found. He then joined the startup Obvious, along with another Twitter co-founder, Evan Williams. Little is known so far about Obvious’ planned products or business model.

The move has left many outside observers wondering what exactly Stone has in mind. But although we might not know much about what Obvious will offer, I like Steve Blank’s definition of a startup: “An organization formed to search for a repeatable and scalable business model.” In other words, I suspect that Stone and Williams might have their plans formed only in broad terms, but the idea of engaging at that early stage again and building something from scratch is undoubtedly irresistible -- even if they don’t yet have a fully defined idea.

The Promise of Social Networking

Opportunity is still very much ahead of us. During a recent Focus roundtable that I moderated, panelists Paul Kedrosky said that social networks are “rewiring the planet.” I love that line, and he’s absolutely right. Social media is not so much a market as an enabler. We don’t have a social market any more than we have an Internet market. My apologies for using a consultant word, but it really is a new paradigm of communications. Maybe a baseball term is better: We’re in the first inning, or the second. It’s still very early days.

When It’s Time to Move On

I once had a colleague who told me that when the stack of legal paperwork got taller than he was, he would know it was time to leave. (These days I guess it would be more along the lines of the size of one’s inbox.) Starting a business and scaling a business are completely different skill sets. Both can be extremely rewarding emotionally and financially, but there are very, very few people who are good at, or enjoy, both stages.

In most organizations, there’s a pretty clear moment when you move from one stage to the other. It often corresponds with rounds of investment (particularly later-stage rounds). If you work in one of these organizations, you can both see and feel the changeover. When the time comes, you know it.

It’s pretty clear that Stone and Williams are both startup guys who enjoy and are (no pun intended) obviously very good at starting new ventures. There’s a big difference between the types of entrepreneurs who can envision and get new startups off the ground, and those who have the interest and skill set to scale a rapidly growing, more mature business. Twitter needs the latter now. Stone and Williams are refocusing their personal energies on what they enjoy and what they’re good at.


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