Never underestimate your first idea

Over the last year, I’ve had the chance to sit down with dozens of founders as host of the Masters of Scale podcast. Through these conversations I’ve honed my theories on what allows companies to scale spectacularly, and how these individuals realize their visions.

For this week’s show, I had a very free-flowing conversation with Ev Williams, who founded (in order) Blogger, Twitter and Medium. His career has had such an over-arching impact on how we communicate online that it’s like a history of the entire medium (no pun intended). Any time you share an idea online, chances are Ev helped you express it.

Ev and I have a lot in common. We’re both serial entrepreneurs who’ve paradoxically spent our careers in an almost single-minded pursuit of a single idea. When you look at the companies we’ve founded or invested in, it’s clear that both of us have a fundamental question we’re trying to answer. For Ev, it’s: “How do we connect all the world’s brains into one idea-sharing machine?” For me, it’s: “How do you build social and professional networks that enable us to help each other?”

If you ask this type of sweeping question at the beginning of your career — and if you happen to be riding a wave of massive social and technological change — you’d be surprised by just how long you can keep riding it, without ever getting bored.

If you’re this type of entrepreneur — who’s devoted to a vision and persistent enough to pursue it through multiple companies over the course of a lifetime — I have a few pieces of advice for you, which Ev and I dig into for this week’s episode of Masters of Scale:

  1. Bet on the way the world is moving. If you can spot a profound, transformative change that’s happening in the world, bet on it. Play the possibilities forward in your mind, and keep moving along that path. Ev’s first project was a VHS tape that taught people to use the Internet in the early 90s. His first company was Blogger, the tool for self-publishing in the early 2000s. The world wasn’t ready yet for Twitter or Medium — but it would be. The more people came online, and the more accustomed they got to expressing and consuming ideas, the bigger the solution Ev could build.

If you’d like to add your ideas about scaling the single-minded pursuit, tweet me @ReidHoffman using the hashtag #mastersofscale. Some great episodes are coming up, so we’ll see you on the podcast.

Masters of Scale #20: Twitter/Medium’s Ev Williams • art19.com

Entrepreneur. Investor. Strategist.