At SXSW today, Biz Stone took to the stage for a conversation with writer and broadcaster Steven Johnson.
The Twitter and Jelly co-founder described himself as “an Internet guy who likes to believe in the triumph of humanity through technology.” He argued that people are naturally good, and if you give them the right tools they’ll prove that every day.
When asked about monetization of Jelly, Stone said it was “cart before the horse to start working on the business model when you have eight people,” but he had ideas for allowing paid-for product recommendations in the app. However, sticking to the ‘doing good’ theme that ran through the conversation, he added “People can only give us money if they’re really helping people on Jelly.”
Stone said that Jelly was conceived by mistake after a discussion with his co-founder about what would happen if they built a search engine from scratch, harnessing the power of a more connected world where “six degrees of separation has become four… Someone who has a modest social network, we can give them much wider reach,” through harnessing a broader network within the app. He noted that the drawing feature was almost removed before launch but Stone insisted that they ship with it as it was so much fun to draw on a touchscreen.
Stone said that a use case he imagined for Jelly while it was being conceived was for sharing information about how to care for a wounded seal trapped on a beach. While this may not have actually occurred yet, Stone said that most of the use cases he imagined for Twitter before launch did indeed come true. These included a farmer in Africa wanting to know the current trading price for grain at a market 50 miles away before he makes a trip there – something that eventually came true, albeit in India, according to Stone.
Although he said little new about his time with Twitter (which ironically suffered a serious outage during the session) , when asked about what each of the founders of Twitter brought to the table, he replied “Ev had money, I had design skills and product skills and experience building social networks and Jack had programming skills and a unique vision for wanting to see a city in the form of its multiple status reports.” No mention of ‘forgotten founder’ Noah Glass, then.