AUSTIN, TEXAS -- Twitter Founder and serial digital entrepreneur Biz Stone shared his latest pivot play during a talk on Day Two of the SXSW Interactive festival here.
“Super is my company now,” Stone told an audience comprised, in part, by aspiring entrepreneurs who sat rapt in hopes of gleaning insights from Stone on how to create the next big thing. Stone said, it definitely is not Jelly, his attempt to crack the “question and answer” model of social media.
Stone said it didn’t really work, it isn’t making money and he has shifted his focus full-time to Super, which is a new platform designed to develop empathy among its users. It’s name undoubtedly a nod to Sigmund Freud’s concept of the Superego component of our personalities, but Stone exhibited a fair amount of ego, balanced by self-deprecation, during his talk.
In fact, he offered his most recent failed venture to any takers in the audience, asking, “Does anyone want Jelly?”
On the egotistical front, Stone acknowledged that he his success with Twitter gives him the ability to pivot willy nilly based on wherever his own mood and sensibility moves him, noting, that his most recent investor was the same one who backed Twitter, “and he was like, ‘It worked last time, so for for it… Definitely pivot. Pivot away.”
Stone said part of that support comes from the fact that he has an “emotional investment” in his startup businesses -- that they are more than just a capital investment opportunity for him -- and that resonates with his equity investors too. He recommended the same to the entrepreneurs in his audience.
Stone indicated he clearly is emotionally invested in Super, but said he’s still a little unsure about it’s output or what metrics he would use to evaluate its success other than that his goal was to generate “100 million active happy customers.” If you do that, he said, money will be made on the scale of that user base.
“I think there is value in empathy,” he said, even if he couldn’t predict how it would lead to the financial kind. He said he and his partners are approaching the development of Super in a way that celebrates the “old mashup culture, the old ‘zines,” and then shared a personal anecdote and observation that alluded to some of its benefit, which in some ways sounded like Twitter for people having a bad day.
The “perfect example” of Super, he said was what happened when his friend’s fiancee, who was named Amol, posted a Super, saying, “Amol burnt out and I want to go far, far away,” alongside an image of a burnt piece of toast.
“I know she doesn’t like her job and she’s staying there because she needs her green card.
So I immediately empathized with her,” he recalled, adding, “You wouldn’t necessarily tweet that. And you certainly wouldn’t Instagram a piece of toast.”
Stone said he’s still trying to determine what the success metric for Super will be for spurring human empathy, which he described as “the ability to feel another person’s feelings.
“Measuring empathy on a new communication tool is going to be very, very hard,” he conceded, adding, “We’re going to make our main metric just views. I guess you can measure empathy on the amount of love, plus the amount of responses. But it’s going to be tricky. The truth is, we don’t know yet.”
One thing Stone says he knows is that marketers are going to need to demonstrate empathy too, and he predicted that “philanthropy” would become the new marketing model very soon.
He said he already uses it as an output for his start-ups and asks his team to document how much time they volunteer or how much money they donate to charity.
“‘You’re donating VC money to support Project Red,’” said Stone sharing a recent criticism, then explaining, “What the hell, it’s not charity, it’s marketing.
“I have a believe the future of marketing is philanthropy,” he continued, asserting it would e an important model for influencing “young people, they’re attracted to meaning.”Stone predicted that “in the future” if a brand had a “$5 million budget for marketing something, you’ll spend spend $4 million supporting a cause and $1 million making a big deal about how you supported a cause.”