Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Lessons from a Recovering Doormat

Interview with Craig Newmark, Founder of Craigslist

For the first interview of my Embracing SUCCESS series I have Craig Newmark, Founder of Craigslist, a
site that’s made life easier for millions of people. Every Wednesday I’ll interview someone who’s become successful by following his or her passions. I find Craig inspiring. He’s so down-to-earth and caring about the services he offers, as you’ll see by some of his answers.

In 1994, Craig saw the beginnings of online communities and news groups and thought the Internet would help him connect with people. He began sending an e-mail list of what he considered cool events in San Francisco to friends. It became popular and more people got added to his mailing list. Then requests came in to list apartments, jobs, etc. Craig decided to move it to a list server.

People were calling it Craigslist and despite other ideas, the name stuck. Craig still had a day job and ran it as a hobby. In 1998, there were things that needed to be adjusted. He left his day job and worked on developing Craig’s List more seriously. He hired Jim Buckmaster to manage it and now he’s the CEO.

Craig began Craigslist as a service for San Francisco, but now there are Craigslists all over the country and the world. He still concentrates on giving good customer service and improving what the site offers. He still works in customer service. I once emailed about a problem and heard right back from him! Craig also started the Craigslist Foundation, that provides support for emerging non-profits. So giving back is a very important part of what he strives for!

Next week the interview will be with Tim Westergren, founder of Pandora, the wonderful online radio site. His story is an example of how passion can make you go the distance. I have some other terrific people that I’ll announce next week.

Interview with Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist

Why do you think Craigslist has been so successful?
Culture of trust, results from follow through on values like “treat people like you want to be treated.”
Good customer service; First mover in the classified ads space. Site run as a community service, almost all free.

What turned the tide‹both in the operation AND in your head‹from viewing CL as a hobby to seeing the potential of it being a viable business?
Community people let me know that the volunteer operation was failing, and helped me get out of denial.

How do you view yourself among the other shareholders, since you founded the company? What do you currently do at Craigslist?
I don’t even think about it. My primary gig is customer service, also shared responsibility for media strategy and speaking.

What made you start Craigslist Foundation?
Felt right as another way to give back to the community.

Which of your endeavors gives you the most satisfaction?
Nothing specific, just a sense that we’re helping out lots of people.

How would you rate the importance of doing things to give back in the big picture of doing business?
High priority.

What are you most grateful for?
People can see what we’re really about.

How would you rate your success?
I don’t; there’s always more to do.

What lessons did you learn on the road from your hobby to having such as a successful business that helped you grow as a person?
Trust people in general, but listen to my intuition.

What¹s more important when making a business decision‹improving CL as a viable moneymaking business or staying true to your values and the needs of those who use it?
We don’t think about the first, we just follow through with our values.
How do you feel knowing that you¹ve created a huge community that so many people value and were chosen as one of Time magazine’s people who shape our lives? It’s flattering, but there’s more work to do.

What’s your best advice to someone who says, “My goal is to be successful.”
Follow through with basic values, and remember to provide good customer service.

If you enjoyed my post, please leave a comment and/or click on the bookmark and write a short review at some of the sites, especially Stumbleupon and Digg. Thanks!

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  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13882300480936009844 D.

    Hi Daylle!re: Craig: “remember to provide good customer service” –> don’t you find this hilarious coming from Craig? *I* certainly do… Just think about it… how many employees does craigslist have? for how many users? how much money is it “saving” each year by refusing to hire an adequate number of people? where does all that money go and at what cost to the community that built craigslist and continues to make it work? These are the sort of issues I would have loved to read about. Maybe in your next post about craigslist?:)DeliaP.S. take care! D.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01445486103480238038 Daylle Deanna Schwartz

    Hi Delia,I can’t make those complaints about a service I’ve used for free MANY times. As I said in my post, I once had a problem and got a response from Craig shortly after I wrote to him. There will be no other posts on this topic. It’s a series about people who’ve created SUCCESS by following their passions, not CL. Whether you like the service or not Craig is a great example of someone who took something that began as a hobby and turned it into a successful business.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13882300480936009844 D.

    Those are not complaints, Daylle… they are just *basic facts* that shed a lot of light on just what kind of a “success story” craigslist really is… DeliaP.S. Good luck with your other stories! D.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01445486103480238038 Daylle Deanna Schwartz

    I do understand your point Delia. But I’m still inspired at how Craig was able to turn his hobby into a successful business, with glitches, yes, but successful. I’ve had some problems but what I’ve gotten from using CL FAR outweighs them.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/13882300480936009844 D.

    As far as I can tell, those are not “glitches,” they are serious ethical issues: craigslist is a huge financial success *because* of those issues. DeliaP.S. That’s why it’s not a true success story as far as I’m concerned — that’s why I wished you luck with your other stories… Take care! D.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/05088184676439578876 therapydoc

    Great job, landing that!

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/01445486103480238038 Daylle Deanna Schwartz

    Thanks! I have some more great interviews coming up.

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