Twitter and Jelly Co-Founder Biz Stone at SXSW: I’m Building Apps to Help People
AUSTIN — David Pogue sat down with Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter and of the new company behind the Q&A app Jelly, for a talk here at SXSW.
In this interview, we learn the origin of the name “Biz,” as well as Biz’s history with other companies leading to the breakout success of Twitter. It all started when Biz was a shipping clerk and he surreptitiously designed a book cover for the art department where he was working. To his surprise, the client picked it.
In the Biz world, creativity is a “renewable resource,” and there’s no one solution for any challenge.
Of course, Biz is happy with the success of Twitter. And, of course, he didn’t know it was going to be quite so huge when he was starting it. But, he says, he loved every moment of working with fellow founders Evan Williams and Jack Dorsey. He says the emotional investment was easy to make when every morning he would wake up and think, “Yay, I get to go to work with Ev and Jack.”
Both business and personal success, he says, depend “on the people sitting around you.”
Biz says he left Twitter to start the Q&A service Jelly because he lives to help people, and Jelly does exactly that. Starting a new project, he says, let him “create more surface area for good things to happen.”
Regarding Jelly, he says he’s been intrigued to discover its three most popular uses:
1. Identification. As in, “Is this snake poisonous?”
2. Troubleshooting. For example, people asking how to connect a new device to the back of their TVs.
3. Recommendation. Like for restaurant advice.
Biz points out how he celebrates failure when hiring people. “We look for people who’ve failed … and picked themselves up,” he says. “Nobody sucks,” he adds. Sometimes, people just aren’t working with the right people. He also points out that, at startups, “there is no such thing as the hero founder. The first 50 people are the founders.”
We also learn why Biz is a vegan, how good the chicken-like engineered food from Beyond Meat tastes, and why Biz invested in the company.
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Biz Stone (left), Emperor of the Internet, with David Pogue at SXSW