Biz Stone, co-founder of Twitter, tells a story in his book Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind, about how Odeo, a podcasting startup, suddenly faced tough competition when Apple launched its own podcasting service within iTunes.
To try to save Odeo, CEO Evan Williams came up with a strategy of adding social features that Apple would not likely be interested in. Stone thought the idea was really smart and figured it would work. He told Williams if they executed on the vision, it would make them kings of podcasting, but he had a powerful and life-changing question to ask first:
“This was the question he had been asking himself. Ev took a sip of whiskey, set the drink down and then laughed.
“No I totally don’t want to be the king of podcasting,” he said.
“Neither do I, I told him. “I knew the weight of what we were saying. How could we do this if it wasn’t something we were enthusiastic about?”
Not only did they dislike podcasting, none of the founders or employees really used it. The truth, they realized, was if they weren’t engaged, they couldn’t go on, so they decided to sell Odeo.
While the board shopped for a buyer, Williams ran a hackathon as a morale booster to help employees overcome their apathy toward Odeo and rediscover their passions. They worked in pairs and had two weeks to pursue compelling ideas and build anything they wanted. The hackathon led to the creation of Twitter, and everybody on the team immediately became a power user.
If you don’t love what you are building, you won’t be able to overcome the tough times you’ll face on the way to creating the next big thing. And if neither you nor your employees use your product, then it’s a colossal warning sign for anyone involved in your startup. The best thing to do is let go and move on.
For more insights, read Biz Stone’s,
Things a Little Bird Told Me: Confessions of the Creative Mind,
Biz tells engaging personal stories from his early life and his careers at Google and Twitter, that exemplify the importance of ingenuity in business. He also addresses failure, the value of vulnerability, ambition, and corporate culture. HIs values and vision make this book an inspiring read.