Today, I spoke to Craig Newmark, who is the founder of craigslist.org, and his previous experience includes thirty years working with computers for IBM, GM, Charles Schwab & Co, and Bank of America. In this interview, Craig talks about how he started his company, how power and influence and shifting, how he leverages his brand, and more.
How did you get started with Craigslist, and why did you use your own name as part of the company’s name?
In ’95, I had seen lots of people helping each other out on the Net, and decided to give back by doing a simple email list for tech and arts events. People sent in a lot of feedback, and I responded by following through with suggestions that made sense. We continue to this very day, now led by Jim Buckmaster. Me, I do customer service.
Mid ’95, I needed to start using a list server, was going to call it “SF events”, but people around me told me they already called it “craigslist“, I should keep calling it that. They were right.
You’ve written about how the power and influence will shift to people with the best reputations and trust networks. Can you explain this more? How is this more powerful than money?
Power, money, influence aren’t the same thing, but they’re required in some combination often to get stuff done.
I’m having difficulty articulating this at length, but I do feel strongly that the Net is about people working with each other, and shaping opinion for hopefully the common good.
How have you dealt with the success of Craiglist and how has it built your personal brand?
It’s flattering, considering we’ve helped tens of millions, and then it’s back to work.
I use any personal branding to support good efforts I believe in, like to support veterans groups, particularly the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America, IAVA.org.
When you created Craiglist, were you thinking about the product first or how you were going to market it? Why?
I wasn’t thinking of either, never have really marketed the site.
You said on Jon Stewart’s show once that you still do customer service even though you’re the CEO. What impact has this had on your company?
Well, I’m a really good customer service rep, and doing that helps me keep connected to the grassroots, what’s real.
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart
|Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Craig Newmark is the founder of craigslist.org, a site where people can help each other with everyday needs including housing and jobs. The site has a culture of trust, based on shared values like “treat people like you want to be treated.” He currently works as a customer service rep, in no managerial role. Previous experience includes thirty years working with computers for IBM, GM, Charles Schwab & Co, and Bank of America. He’s also working with a wide range of groups using the Net to help each other out, like Donorschoose.org, the Iraq & Afghanistan Veterans of America, Kiva.org (microfinance) and Consumer Reports. He’s working on the advisory board of Wikipedia, considering customer service and trust issues. You can reach Craig at @craignewmark, facebook.com/craignewmark, or cnewmark.com.