Hey, Craig, is it really that simple?

Craig Newmark of craigslist

Craig Newmark of craigslist

I went to the Craig Newmark lecture last night, co-hosted by the RGK Center and Leadership Austin. It was held at this gorgeous new building near campus, the AT&T Executive Education and Conference Center, which looks like a very expensive hospital inside, without the wheelchairs in the hallways.

For some reason I expected more from Craig Newmark. Here he is, founder of one of the most popular Web sites in the world, craigslist, plus he’s a philanthropist and social entrepreneur, and all he could talk about were those Sunday-schoolisms like “Treat others the way you want to be treated” and “Do what feels right.”

“You can do well by doing good,” he said. “And that actually seems to have worked for us.”

So he spoke for exactly 38 minutes, repeating over and over and over again how he just “stuck to my values” and “built this community of trust,” and as a result has turned down millions and millions of dollars… which isn’t a problem for him because, as he said, “I do know some of these really rich guys, and they don’t seem any happier than I do.”

Is he serious?

When he finished talking, they opened the lecture up for questions. People asked him what he was doing about spam, how craigslist would handle the scammers, why they’ve never done a redesign – or a design for that matter. All he could say is “We’re working on it,” and “The community didn’t care about the design, so we’ve just kept it the way it is.”

He says they have limited resources… I’ll tell you why he has limited resources: Because they’ve chosen to do right by their users over making a ton of money!

The thing is, all of his answers were like this, no matter what the crowd through at him. He kept returning to principles like fairness and trust and transparency and customer service. In fact, that’s all Craig does now. He no longer programs or participates in the structure of the sites. He just works customer service.

I should mention at this point that the craiglist sites get about 12 BILLION viewers a month and are available in more than 500 cities all over the world.

So Craig’s doing something right. Is there something to this whole fairness thing?


One Response

  1. Well, yes, I think there’s something to the “whole fairness thing.” Too bad so many seem to be wrapped up in making a million dollars – or more – overnight. Our priorities are skewed. We’ve let the chase for money overtake the chase for joy. And there is great joy to be found in helping others and doing the right thing.

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