Passionate founders who truly care about providing their users with a great experience and believe in leveraging technology to change society for the better.
I got the opportunity to see Matt Mullenweg of WordPress and Brian Chesky of Airbnb sit down with members of the media for on-stage chats here at SXSW Interactive 2013 and walked away from both talks with a newfound respect for each entrepreneur. Not only were both completely charismatic and well-spoken, but they also taught the audience quite a bit.
Matt Mullenweg, founder of WordPress, had a conversation with Kara Swisher of All Things D about the state of blogging in 2013. He discussed how WordPress came about from a personal need for improved blogging tools, how the company is dedicated to providing its loyal users with the best blogging platform possible and why he will not be selling WordPress anytime soon since the opportunity and flexibility to shape and change the Internet as an independent company is great. In discussing how WordPress compares to Tumblr, Matt noted how the latter is more focused on going down the curation road and following the advertising model, whereas his company is about creation and subscriptions. When pressed about integrating advertisements into the platform, Matt emphasized that WordPress is a tech company, not an ad network. And at 10-11 billion page views per month, that strategy appears to be working just fine.
With Matt and Kara together, someone was bound to seek free advice on what it takes to create a compelling blog. Matt recommends embedding images in all posts to illustrate points to create visual draws, provide cool headlines and engage with readers leaving comments, while Kara highlighted how ATD is able to achieve its success by offering accurate and early content. You can hear more from Matt in Kara’s pre-interview video.
Brian Chesky, co-founder of Airbnb, chatted with Jessi Hempel of Fortune Magazine about the growth and vision of his company, his strong commitment to users, his thoughts on scaling and his larger design philosophy that while art questions, design provides answers. He spoke about how his social worker parents raised him to fit in and not attract any unwanted attention and it wasn’t until a professor at Rhode Island School of Design told him that the world we currently live in was shaped by designers before him and it’s now his time to change the world with his designs that he started to see the possibilities. And the 50,000-60,000+people that use Airbnb each day are grateful for that.
He is completely dedicated to staying on the pulse of his company – so much so that he has been homeless since 2010 and uses his product to find apartments to rent. And if he wanted to stay in something other than a normal house, there are currently 1,000 boats, 500 castles and nice collection of tree houses available for rent on Airbnb. When asked about scaling, Brian talked about focusing on a group of 100 passionate users who will be organic brand evangelists and using technology to build. With such rapid growth, what’s up next? Dog Airbnb!
Stories like Matt and Brian’s are inspiring to us all. The two of them have been able to experience so much success with their companies because they are dedicated to solving real-world problems and putting the user experience at the forefront. It’s great to see founders of fast-paced companies take time out of their busy schedules to come speak at shows like SXSW and spend time with their users – it’s a great way to humanize a brand.