5 Lessons Twitter Co-Founder Biz Stone Shared with HPU Students

On Jan. 20, High Point University welcomed Biz Stone, the co-founder of Twitter who, from humble beginnings, transformed into a Silicon Valley leader. In a conversation with HPU President Dr. Nido Qubein, the two discussed Stone’s winding journey to success. Stone’s answers were filled with stories about overcoming adversity in his childhood, as well as the ups and downs he experienced in Silicon Valley where, for the first year, he slept on the floor of his apartment and faced mounting debt. Thanks to his endless optimism and plenty of hard work, he found the keys to success and shared many with HPU students, faculty, staff and the community:


1. Be emotionally invested.

“When we started Twitter, everyone said it was just a stupid side project. But we loved it. I remember one time, early in Twitter, someone was trying to make fun of us. They wrote a blog post – it was a prominent blogger – and he wrote, ‘Twitter is like the Seinfeld of the Internet; it’s a website about nothing.’ And I thought, ‘Seinfeld is a good show. This is a compliment! We have to put this on our front page as a testimonial.’

This is how you feel when you’re emotionally invested. You don’t hear the criticism about what you’re doing. It becomes like water off a duck’s back. You don’t notice any of these critiques. You just keep working, working. That’s what you need – a hallucinogenic optimism about what you’re doing. A little crazy, soaring idealism and optimism. A belief that it’s going to work.”


2. Opportunity is manufactured.

“My dictionary defines opportunity as a set of circumstances that makes it possible to do something. The world has conditioned us to wait for opportunity, have the good sense to spot it and hope to strike at the appropriate time. But if opportunity is just a set of circumstances, why are we waiting around for the stars to align? Rather than waiting and pouncing with a high degree of failure, you might as well go ahead and create a set of circumstances on your own. If you make the opportunity, you will be first in position to take advantage of it. We don’t have to wait for it. We create it.”


3. Failure is not the end of the line.

“There’s so many failures on the way to finally making it. But the thing is – it depends on how you look at failure. It’s really just a lesson learned. Failure is not the end of the line. It’s more like, ‘Great! Okay, well we won’t do that again.’

When I hire people, I love it when people say they started a company that failed. That means they know what it’s like. I always tell people – I have a new startup now – most likely, we’re not going to succeed. Those are the numbers. But you have to be willing. To succeed spectacularly, you have to be willing to fail spectacularly. That’s the entrepreneurial spirit.”


4. Jump in.

“You have to try – just jump in and try something. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But you have to start somewhere. I don’t think I’ve ever done anything where we actually built what we set out to build. We started there, then we edited away things, and built something else.

Another key thing – this is probably the most important thing, above building something – is finding the right person to work with. Someone who complements you. Someone who’s strong where you’re weak. Someone who’s weak where you’re strong. Ideally, someone who’s smarter than you so you can level up. That’s key. Finding that person to work with and bounce ideas off of.

But my advice for starting a company is just to start something. Build something – a prototype, anything. Even if it’s just to get it out of your system, and say ‘Well that was a bad idea.’”


5. Determine how you measure success.

“How do you define success? How do you measure it? I often ask that to start-up companies who want my help. It means a lot of things to different people. For some people, being successful means being rich and famous. For other people, it’s saving lives. Determine how you measure success, then go from there.

How do I suggest you achieve a life of success and significance? Figure out what it is that you love to do, and how that can be applied toward doing some good, then double down on it like crazy. Don’t try to be someone that you’re not. It’s a mistake to operate on someone else’s playbook. You won’t feel happy and everyone will know anyways. Find what you love, then turn that into something.”


About Twitter:

  • 320 million users today across the world
  • 80 percent of the world leaders Tweet
  • 350,000 Tweets per minute
  • 200 billion Tweets a year


Biz Stone

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