SAUSALITO, Calif. — These days, Twitter cofounder Biz Stone is focused on his new startup, Jelly Industries.
Jelly describes itself on its website as “a loose network of nerves that act as a ‘brain,’ similar to the way we envision loosely distributed networks of people coordinating via Jelly to help each other.”
Stone, 40, founded the startup last year with partner Ben Finkel. Since leaving the day-to-day operations of Twitter a few years ago, Stone has invested in, and sits on the board of, a host of companies, including Square, Nest Labs, Xanga, and Blogger, which Google now owns.
He is married, has a 2-year-old son, Jacob, and derives immense satisfaction using his estimated $200 million wealth to donate to charities and foundations in order to help others. He lives in Marin County.
Stone, quiet though affable, rarely does press these days. I caught up with him at VentureBeat’s Mobile Summit, where he talked about today’s mobile landscape, how the smartphone is embedded into our DNA, what it’s like being tremendously wealthy, and how he doesn’t really miss the day-to-day at Twitter’s San Francisco headquarters.
He also actively blogs on his website, Bizstone.com.
VentureBeat: How much has changed in the mobile space since you founded Twitter almost a decade ago?
Biz Stone: Everything since I founded Twitter eight years ago. There was no iPhone. Smartphones were the Palm, with a stylus and everything. That was the smartphone. Nobody had those. A few of us did. So everything changed. It’s amazing to think only so long ago, 2007, when the first iPhone came out. Now, everything is mobile. Or a tablet, which is basically the same. I lump those two together. The world is a completely different place. The mobile phone is now the most intimate witness to our lives. It’s the thing that where, when we’re three-quarters of our way to work, and we’re still driving, we’re trying to get to our mobile phones. Not our wallets, but the mobile phone.
VentureBeat: The mobile phone is basically our lives.
Stone: You have to have it. And as a result, it’s become this extension of us that we can’t live without. And so now, when I think of consumer systems to build, I think mobile-first. And actually, we were mobile first at Twitter. But that was only because we were trying to hack SMS to do something that it wasn’t meant to do. We thought that was fun. Like, let’s take this thing and use it for another. And so Twitter was mobile-first, and it was a stroke of luck. Because then, the iPhone came out a year after we started working on Twitter. The timing was beautiful.
VentureBeat: Do you still miss the early days of Twitter, when it was a day-to-day thing for you?
Stone: I don’t miss the day-to-day at Twitter because I’m so engaged with Jelly. I do go over to Twitter quite often, and I meet with Dick [Twitter CEO Dick Costolo], and I meet with Jack [Twitter cofounder and chairman Jack Dorsey]. I do have a bunch of ideas I’d like to have them implement. And I love to bend Dick’s ear. But I don’t miss it, and I have complete faith in the current executive bench there and the team we built to take this company all the way. I feel good about it. Sometimes, I miss it. But in general, no. Also, I’m so into Jelly.
VentueBeat: You still own a considerable equity stake in Twitter, right?
Stone: A lot of equity for an individual person. Too much, really, for one person. I mean, it’s worth a lot of money.
VentureBeat: What’s it like being as wealthy as you are?
Stone: Well, I have lots of theories on money. My theory on mega-wealth is that it amplifies who you are. So if you’re a jerk, you become a bigger jerk. If you’re a nice person, you become a philanthropist; you become very helpful. I consider myself a nice person, and my wife and I have a foundation. We give a lot away, and we try to help people. It’s also extremely freeing. It frees you from all the anxieties of whether or not you’re going to be able to pay bills or take care of your ailing parents or friends. So it’s a true gift, and we believe in giving back.