Blogger, another Web 2.0 company, is another company that came into itself while working on something else. Evan Williams cofounded Pyra Labs in 1999. Originally Pyra set out to create a web-based project management tool, not unlike Basecamp. However, Williams built the core, simple Blogger to turn his own personal website into a weblog. This functionality was then used internally at Pyra, until it was finally launched publicly as Blogger.
Williams created the core that later became blogger when he decided to turn his personal website into a weblog. Commenting on this process Williams says, “Being web app developers, I think we both wrote our own scripts to do it–basically the same functionality as Blogger. It seemed like not a big deal at the time, but it did change my relationship with my website–even with the web” (Founders at Work, 113).
And that was the crux that made Blogger important–it made publishing to a website easy. Williams says, “For a long time people understood Blogger as ‘It makes it easy to have a website’” (Founders at Work, 113). However, there were other competitors to this at the time. GeoCities was a web hosting service that made it easy to have a website. However, it wasn’t easy to publish to that website on an ongoing basis. That’s how Blogger transformed the experience of having a website. Now people could have a thought, fill out a form, and in a matter of seconds that thought would be published to their website.
But, Blogger didn’t come at first. Williams took that functionality and used it as an internal form of communication at Pyra Labs, which was still focused on creating a web-based project management tool. After debating which product to focus on, Paul (another cofounder of Pyra Labs) and Williams built and launched Blogger while Meg (a third cofounder) was on vacation for a week. Blogger was meant to be a little thing that would attract people to the real thing (the project management tool). However, it was just a little thing. It caught on quick, and the company was faced with two potential products, neither making money, and no real clue where to focus. One had a lot of buzz no clear business model.
To make long story short the company started experiencing financial trouble. At one point Blogger was having a lot of trouble scaling up. The company simply posted, “We can’t buy hardware, but we have pans and we are not going to go away if we can get past this hump.” $17,000 dollars in donations later the company was able to buy the necessary hardware, but they couldn’t pay the employees anymore. Essentially, Williams laid everyone off, including himself. At this point everyone else, including Meg, decided to leave. Williams describes being the only one to come into the office the next morning.
Many financial and legal struggles later, Williams, single-handedly, managed to keep Blogger alive. It grew to around one million users until it was acquired by Google (the company’s first acquisition) in 2003.
In 2004 Evan Williams left Google to start a pod casting company Odeo. In 2006 he founded Obvious Corp. One of Obvious Corp.’s projects was Twitter, which Williams was CEO of until October of 2010.
Let’s just take a moment to respect the entrepreneur and utter genisus that is Evan Williams.