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The Future Of Marketing Is Philanthropy, Says Twitter And Jelly Founder Biz Stone

The future of marketing is philanthropy. Those were the closing remarks of Twitter co-founder, Biz Stone, at a Q&A session at Oxford University's Said Business School yesterday. 

I was fortunate enough to attend and was deeply impressed by Biz who clearly meant every word, as evidenced by setting up Jelly -- an app that puts people with questions and needs in touch with those who have the answer or can help.

"In the future, companies aren't going to spend five million pounds on advertising," he predicted. "They're going to give away four and spend the other one telling everyone how they gave away four million pounds to good causes. The future of marketing is philanthropy."

Biz clearly has a strong belief that people are basically good and want to be kind to one another.

"Humans are hard-wired to help each other out," he told students, academics and local businesspeople yesterday. "We're basically good and we want to help but we go about it all the wrong way. You start up a company and think you'll give a bunch of money away when you feel comfortable. Trouble is, you never truly feel comfortable that you've got enough money that you can give away lots of it. You're better off starting right away with just donating what you can afford or volunteering to help a good cause."

It's this belief that has led to Biz and his wife volunteering for good causes (a point he didn't make yesterday) as well as launching Jelly so someone in need can reach out to someone who might be able to help out, be it a place to stay or just to borrow a lawnmower for the afternoon.

If you ever get the chance to see Biz talk, take it. It was my first time yesterday and he was very entertaining and frequently had the audience laughing. He recalled his first 'lol' moment when he and his wife had bought a tiny house in Berkeley during a heat wave. There he was in the very earliest days of Twitter ripping up a carpet in searing heat, hoping to find stunning wooden boards below. They weren't there, but when his phone pinged it was a pal rubbing it in with a tweet that he was having a glass of wine after a wonderful massage in the Napa Valley. 

For those looking to succeed he reminded them that "Twitter was born out of failure." His podcasting business, Odeo, hadn't worked out and so the directors went off for two weeks to try to build something new. He and Jack Dorsey played around with an idea that struck Jack after he'd seen friends leave amusing status updates on their AOL Messenger accounts such as "feeling sick." They worked together on adapting this to the 160 characters offered by an SMS. Trouble was, the username ate into this so those with long names had fewer characters -- so Biz decided it should be 140 for everyone.

Another interesting piece of advice for the audience was to work with people who inspire you and you want to be around. Biz had followed this path from being a book cover designer for a graphic designer he admired to joining Evan Williams at Blogger and Google and then founding Twitter with Dorsey and Williams.

Along the route, he joked, he got into serious debt. His solution was simple.

"I invented an alter ego, called Future Me," he joked. "I would get into so much debt trying to create something new that people would love but I'd tell myself, and those around me, that it was okay because Future Me was going to have a load of money and pay off all the debts and make everything okay. And it kind of worked out. So it's pretty cool to have a future you can rely on!"


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