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Main » 2012 » March » 5 » Biz Stone: In order to succeed, you can't be afraid to fail ‎
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Biz Stone: In order to succeed, you can't be afraid to fail ‎

MONTREAL - Twitter co-founder Biz Stone showed a picture of himself dressed in a tuxedo with a huge smile on his face, holding hands with his wife, in a wedding dress, covering her face with her hand.

"This photo was taken about 30 seconds after I got married," Stone told an audience of about 1,000 at a luncheon Wednesday at the Palais des congrès. "I look like the happiest guy and the world, and my wife looks like she made a big mistake."

In town to speak as the invited guest of the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal, Stone said businesses and entrepreneurs need to take pride in their mistakes. If he hadn't, he never would have created the microblogging site in 2006 along with Jack Dorsey, Noah Glass and Evan Williams.

He spoke about many of his failures as an entrepreneur, first as the inventor of a company that allowed people to send broadcasts to iPods ("we thought we were geniuses, and it turns out it was called podcasting and people were already doing it.")

"Failure is great," he said. "It's really scary, but it's totally worth it, because you can't succeed at these exponential levels unless you dramatically fail."

Stone even spoke of the initial failures of Twitter.

The room was all a twitter when Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter, spoke to the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal on Wednesday.

"When we started it, nobody thought it was a very good idea," he said. "But we kept working on it."

But he realized he was onto something when he attended the South by Southwest music and interactive festival in 2007, and saw how people were using the site to communicate about events taking place there.

"One person tweeted to tell a few people to meet him at a bar, and in the eight minutes it took him to walk to that bar, it had filled to capacity and there was a line out the door," he said.

Twitter, and other social media tools allow people to communicate instantly. It has fostered revolutions, as seen in last year's Arab Spring uprisings, and changed the way companies communicate with their customers. Stone envisions social media playing a role in uniting the world and making it a better place.

"The more connected we get through all social media, the more humanity can move as one," he said. "Maybe I'm just being hallucinogenically optimistic, but the idea that once we're connected we'll be able to move together, suggests we'll be able to get a lot more done in a lot shorter time."

Stone, who is a vegan, said his goal for any of his enterprises is to help improve the world, make money and have fun. And he said every company should have a strong social conscience.

"It just makes good business sense because consumers and good employees are attracted to products and companies that care about the world," he said. "If there's a $5-million marketing budget, maybe, you can spend $4 million bringing clean water to a region in India, and another million making a big deal about that."

Although he has spent most of his professional life working for technology companies, he said he learned many relevant skills in his first job as a graphic designer.

"I learned creativity is a renewable resource," he said. "It's a wonderful way of thinking about challenges, because it turns work into play. It makes everything fun, and you can always take another crack at something."

His advice when looking for solutions to a problem is to try to find the most creative, off-the wall idea and see if it works.

Stone, who is listed as Twitter's creative director, left the company's day-to-day operations last June and is taking time to launch a new venture. He's also taking time to spend with his son, Jacob, who was born in November.


He said he was proud that Twitter hired a corporate social responsibility employee before it hired its first salesperson. But even the microblogging site isn't infallible. Last week, the company came under fire for storing the information from contact lists of iPhone users for a period of 18 months. The company later apologized and altered its user agreement.

He said when companies like Twitter make mistakes, they must confess their errors. And he said social media is a great way for companies to seem more approachable to customers.

"I think vulnerability is essential," he said. "For so long, companies and brands thought they needed to seem bulletproof. I think when a brand uses Twitter, they're able to communicate when they make a mistake. I think when you do things like that you reveal you're open and honest and willing to change and admit to your mistakes. I think brands are using it to really build trust with consumers."

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