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Today we're going to take a closer look at how the son of a single parent and struggling bookkeeper became a successful Internet entrepreneur. Despite having started off with no business plan, this man built on of the top ten Internet sites in the world. This is the story of Craigslist founder Craig Newmark and the top 3 lessons that you can learn from his success.
"From the very beginning, I was involved in talking to people, listening to people. And it hasn't stopped. The idea was that people send me information; I'd ask them about it, listen, try to do something about it - and then ask for more feedback." - Craig Newmark
Craig Newmark (born December 6, 1952) is an American entrepreneur that started with an idea to inform people that turned into Craigslist, a multimillion dollar Internet business. Newmark grew up in Morristown, New Jersey. His father, a salesman who peddled everything from food to insurance, died of lung cancer shortly after Newmark's bar mitzvah. His mother worked as a bookkeeper and struggled to make ends meet after her husband passed away. Newmark went to Morristown High School, where he became co-captain of the debate team, and also an active member of the forensics club. He also started his own club, which met regularly to play the game Go.
A few years after graduating college, Newmark worked for IBM in Florida then for Charles Schwab in San Francisco. Newmark then began working as an independent consultant, taking on contracts with Bank of America, Xircom, Sun Microsystems and more. After several years of observing people on the Internet and how they used online tools to help each other out, Newmark decided to start his own email service to notify people about cool arts and technology events in San Francisco.
When Newmark's simple email listings reached over 240 subscribers, he could no longer carry on as he was; even his cc field would not accept anymore email addresses. Instead of shutting down, Newmark decided to move his list to a public server for all to access. He wanted to call his new website "SF-Events" but some of his closer friends suggested calling it "Craigslist" to emphasize the personal and down-to-earth nature of the list. In its first few years, Newmark ran the site as a part-time hobby, continuing his consulting work full-time during the day. He tried to bring on some volunteers, but they did not pan out as Newmark expected. That is when he had an epiphany. He hired the right CEO and Craigslist took off. Craigslist was earning over $10 million in revenues by 2004. Then, in 2005, for a price tag of $15 million, eBay purchased a 25% stake in the company from a former shareholder. As of 2010, Craigslist was generating more than $122 million annually.
Action Item #1: Get Out of the Way
Action Item #2: Do Things Better
Action Item #3: Listen
Despite his professional successes, Newmark struggled personally. He enrolled in ballet and jazz dance classes in order to meet women only to wind up in the hospital with a hernia. No matter what most people say, one of the biggest reasons Newmark started Craigslist was because of his struggling personal life. He is a self-admitted nerd, which really turned off women. He thought it was a good idea to start helping people by starting an email service for others like himself.
After finally getting too many people using his email service, Newmark started Craigslist. According to him, it is the reason he has the girlfriend he has today. He likes to say that Craigslist has prevented hurting himself just to meet women. Out of this struggle for personal contact, Newmark built one of the top-ten websites in the world. According to recent statistics, more than five million people use the site every month and more than one billion pages of Craigslist are looked at every month.
"There are different flavors of libertarianism, but my take is that its core values 'treat people like you want to be treated' and 'live and let live,' which works for most humans."
"It has helped people who have a hard time meeting other people. They're using the site and becoming friends, lovers, and every possible twist on those two situations."
"I admit that when I think of the money one could make from all this, I get a little twinge. But I'm pretty happy with nerd values: Get yourself a comfortable living, then do a little something to change the world."
"Follow through with basic values, and remember to provide good customer service."
What Do You Think?
Do you get out of the way when you need to? Do you know when things need to be done better and then do it? Do you listen to people? Tell me what you think by leaving a message below.