Do you know about the founders of Twitter and their story? The Twitter story is CRAZY. You can read about it in the book, Hatching Twitter, by Nick Bilton. It reads like a murder-mystery book, except without the murder and mystery. But it’s really entertaining. What I loved most about it is that it showed the realness behind one of the most successful startups of all time. It showed the true personalities of those involved, and the struggles they went through, and how they dealt with it. One of the founders written about in the book who I’ve grown to respect and admire is Biz Stone. By all accounts, he is a real, ridiculously smart, and in-tune entrepreneur.
A few months ago a really cool app was brought to my attention by my good friend and app guru Mike Gold. Mike is an uber nerd who loves to geek out to the latest and greatest apps. He told me I had to check out this amazing photo sharing app called Super and that it was created by Biz Stone, one of Twitter’s founders.
I downloaded the app and fell in love.
I got the chance to meet up with Stone, and ask him some questions about the app and some other really cool stuff:
Q: Photo sharing apps seems like such a competitive space. Why did you decide to get in on that sector?
A: Super isn’t about sharing photos, even though you can. It’s more of a celebration of mashup culture and a nod back to my own roots—I started out as an artist and then became a technologist. You can very clearly see the inspiration for Super in Barbara Kruger’s work. Super turns everyone into an artist and it’s fun. That’s why I decided to create Super—for fun. If something is fun, then people are more likely to use it. If lots of people use it, then it has the potential to become important.
Q: How would you differentiate Super from other photo-sharing apps?
A: Super is differentiated by some intangible things like its “out there” style that isn’t like any other app, and its offbeat branding and attitude. More tangible differentiators for Super are the constraint of the starters—Super forces people to begin their statements with a word or phrase of our choosing. Also, instead of being precious about the photo, we lay the statements right on top in big, bold, capital letters.
Q: Your design for Super is so badass. What, who, or what style inspired the design?
A: The design for Super was inspired by the artist Barbara Kruger. In our first prototype, the only starters were THE BEST, THE WORST, THE CRAZIEST, and THE SEXIEST. Those are the beginnings of superlative statements which is where we got the name Super. Also, people who know me know that this design fits my personality. My love of art, my background in graphic design, and my style of putting forth emphatic points of view make the design of Super a kind of manifestation of my personality.
Q: Super has such an innovative design. What was the design process like?
A: The design process of Super was to go for quirky, offbeat, and fun. Also to make it easy for everyone to be an artist. We started by looking at some work by Barbara Kruger and had a mantra of “don’t be precious.” In other words, go ahead and break the mold—be different, stand out, do whatever it takes to create something fresh that people will enjoy using.
Q: Amazing products sometimes come out of pivots. For instance, Twitter came out of some of the team working on Odeo. Is Super something like that for Jelly?
A: Jack [Dorsey] and I took a two-week break from Odeo to hack together a prototype for Twitter because Odeo wasn’t firing people up and we wanted to do something fun. It was similar with Jelly and Super, except there is more of a connection. Jelly was doing OK but not firing people up. Many folks either didn’t have or didn’t want to ask questions on Jelly. What they did love, however, was answering questions—especially when they were of the opinion variety. So we thought, hell, let’s ditch the questions and just let people share emphatic opinions. We went from there. However, when Jelly works, it really works. Also, there are a bunch of people who use Jelly and get great results so we’re going to continue to support the application.
Q: What is a lesson you learned in the past that you applied to Super?
A: The lesson I learned in the past that I applied to Super is that if something is fun, then it’s more likely to be used by people. Then, if lots of people use it, Super has the potential of becoming important. It’s always about people, not technology. When a lot of people gather with help from technology, amazing things start to happen. All of this starts with fun. As Eames famously said, “Toys are not really as innocent as they look. Toys and games are preludes to serious ideas.”
Q: Twitter literally changed the world. Many startups say they want to change the world, but you actually did. Do you think that Super is going to change the world?
A: I have no expectation that Super will change the world. In fact, I’ve decided not to come up with some slick and pithy marketing description for Super. I’m certainly not going to proclaim that Super is the most innovative thing ever or that it’s going to change the world. It’s not, it’s just fun. We’re having fun building it, people are having fun using it. For now, we’re gonna see where this plan takes us.
Q: You co-founded one of the most successful startups to date. You now have a killer app that seems to be gaining a crazy amount of traction. What advice can you give young startups trying to get their first win?
A: There is a lot of advice I’d give to young startups but if I only had one piece of advice to give, I’d say the most important thing to have is emotional investment. In other words, love the product you’re working on because that’s what will carry you through the times when everyone is telling you it’s a stupid idea that will never work. With emotional investment, you don’t even hear those comments. Without it, they can eat away at you and might convince you to give up too early.