Interview with Stewart Butterfield about Tiny Speck and Stuff

Stewart Butterfield gave the keynote at FUSION ’09, so I had the brief chance of speaking with him before he was ushered away by Connect TV and others interested in getting inside of his head.

I smiled a lot, admittedly tried to get the best and latest information about Tiny Speck , his new company that has something to do with gaming, social networks and such. In a nutshell, he said Tiny Speck is based on the concept of something about his father going to play Bridge with his friends and how he wouldn’t necessarily want to always invite all those Bridge people over to his house and have a more private game with them, even though he liked playing with them (or something like this, my recorder stopped half way so I’m not directly quoting him).  Anyhow, the point being that Tiny Speck is going to be an online game of sorts with social elements mixed into it with that reference in mind.

When I asked if it’s a Texas Hold ‘Em scenario he looked at me like I was on medication. But really, I just hadn’t had coffee yet. Anyhow. I felt like a crappy interviewer by asking him about Flickr, but let’s face it, it’s a pretty awesome site and a big deal in terms of acquisitions and successes for the local start-up scene. Following is my interview with Stewart about Tiny Speck, start-ups and mistakes.  By the way, you can now sign up for Beta testing on the Tiny Speck site.

What’s with the name?

We thought about making an actual game called Tiny Speck, so that’s why we called it that.  It’s better than calling it the “shiny corporation” or something.

Character trait of a person you’ll hire for Tiny Speck?

Deep understanding and appreciation of whatever it is that they do for their craft. Whether it’s programming or project management or design, I think that for the people that are best at what they do, it’s not just a job. We’ll hire people who take a lot of pride in their work and all of the people we’ve hired so far have that.

Predicting the future of what will be the next big thing?

I was one of the very early users of Twitter and they used SMS. I didn’t really think anything of it. Right now it seems like Facebook has the opportunity, you know, Facebook is pretty invincible. I can’t predict the future, but the only truth is that things will change and 5 years form now it’ll look different.

Best advice for entrepreneurs?

You can give directions to someone to take the bus to the airport, but it doesn’t mean that they’ll get there. Entrepreneurs can’t all succeed and there is no formula. The most important thing to keep in mind is that everything you assume at early stages is wrong and the ability to figure out what you’re doing wrong and discover your mistakes fast and actually just f-up fast, get the mistakes out of the way is the most important thing.

Everything else is particular to the business.

Do you take money now or later, do you hire this person or that person? Should you launch this new feature? All those kind of things are easy to recognize from hindsight, as right or wrong, but impossible to recognize up front.

Why did you succeed with Flickr or rather what mistakes did you make?

Many of our mistakes had beneficial side effects, but they were still mistakes. One was the focus on technology. Because Flickr when it first launched was fundamentally different than it is today. It was focused on chat, technically, it was super-awesome. Having the cool technology got us the attention, but it wasn’t a product that spoke to many people. A lot of our mistakes aren’t that interesting to mention. We would push out a new version of the site usually three or four or ten times in a single day and get feed back if it didn’t work. So, it’s much easier to do when you are small.