By the end of the month, Ev Williams will no longer be on Twitter's Board.
Ev Williams' journey to cofounding Twitter
The 47-year-old entrepreneur is most notable for (co)founding online publishing platforms like Blogger, Twitter and Medium. In 2003, a company he cofounded and led, Pyra Labs (parent of Blogger) got acquired by Google. Ev left Google in 2004, to found and lead podcasting company, Odeo with Noah Glass. Jack Dorsey joined Odeo in the same year. There were other notable early employees like Biz Stone and Jason Goldman at Odeo. Down the line, they came up with a side project—Twttr—a social media platform around text messages. Jack is credited with the idea for Twittr, but the current name—Twitter—is attributed to Noah. In 2006, they spun Twitter into its own company, with Jack, Ev and Biz Stone as cofounders. The other often left-out cofounder, Noah was fired by Ev before Twitter launched. Still, Mr Glass is regarded as a cofounder of Twitter by Hatching Twitter's author, Nick Bilton.
Having been involved in many projects that became companies, Ev sort to start a "
project startup incubator". So, in the year that Twitter became incorporated, he launched the Obvious Corporation, cofounded by Biz Stone and Jason Goldman.
"I thought it would be interesting to create a company that enabled that kind of thing to happen, and with each project we would just take it on its natural trajectory, whether or not that was something that blew up and it made sense to spin it out.We mostly wanted to be a lab where we invented stuff", Ev said speaking to NYT's Claire C. Miller.
Ev Williams of Medium, owned by the Obvious Corporation
Mr Williams launched A Medium Corporation, a modern online publishing platform in 2012.
Medium started as an internal project under Obvious Corporation.
This is the same way Twitter launched, as a hackathon side project under Odeo. It has become clear to me that Ev likes to "happen" on companies as opposed to "create" them from scratch. If he was teaching at an MBA, Ev's model for starting a company would be to first float as side project, if it gains traction, evolve into a company, else abort.
However, such model comes with their own challenges. At what point does an entrepreneur know when to float MVP as company? At what point does a side project stop being that? How much should you invest, and when? At what point does operating nimble and failing fast start to confuse the audience about your purpose?
In about a year that Medium launched Ev announced that they had 30 staffers, formerly employees of Obvious. A few years later, he slashed more than one-third of his workforce, as he sought other business models. This will not be the first time that Ev would be slashing workforce.
Also, when Medium first launched it was not public. Ev tweeted an invitation to Twitter employees making them one of the earliest groups to post on the platform. Years later, it became free for all to read and publish, before adopting a gated approach, again. This time around, it was a mix. Users could read some stories for free. While writers could "lock" some of their stories. Custom domains used to be free, but in Q1 2017, the price became prohibitive.
The "Agile" approach to the development of Medium rendered many of his employees jobless. And industry practitioners confused. "Is it a publication? Is it a platform? Is it both?" Alex Dalenberg, UpStart Business Journal contributor quizzed.
When it was a Publication, it needed a lot of staff writers, when it resembled a Platform, it didn't need that many. But when it's both, it would need a combination of staff writers and external contributors.
In as much as Ev is a serial entrepreneur, he seems to understand the power of focus in getting things done.
After starting Obvious, Ev "paused" on it to give "his full attention on Twitter", two years later he became the CEO. During his two-year tenure he helped the company close a Series C round of funding. Plus, he rolled out a revenue-making feature—Promoted Tweets. So, he had little or no time for Obvious.
But since he and his cofounder, Biz left Twitter in 2011, his passion for Obvious was re-ignited.
Mr. Williams has wanted to run Obvious since he left Google after it acquired Blogger, but other start-ups — first Odeo, then Twitter — lured him away.
Claire Cain Miller, NYT Correspondent
In that period, post-daily-running of Twitter was Medium then born. Even though Ev was no longer running day-to-day operations, his attention to Medium was still not 100%.
As he was still on the Board of Twitter. Today's announcement could see him secure big wins for his online publishing startup in the nearest future. Already, Digiday reported that Ev's Medium was looking to launch four subscription-based Publications, back to one of their earliest strategies for growing Medium.
This, we believe, is Ev's return to Medium.
What's next for Medium, increase in User base, higher revenue numbers, an IPO? How soon?