craigslist is the largest online local classified listings service in the world. Craig Newmark started the service in San Francisco back in 1995 as a place to find jobs, housing, and for others to find goods & services, social activities, a girlfriend or boyfriend, advice, community information, and just about anything else -- all for free, and in a relatively non-commercial environment.
As the web became a place for commerce and making huge fortunes craigslist remained private and free. No ads, no fees (except for job listings), and no IPO. craigslist could have been eBay or something similar, and could have won fame and fortune for Craig Newmark. He has no regrets, and is still "plugging away" at craigslist. I had a chance to talk with Craig recently about his experiences and he agreed to be interviewed for The Next Big Thing.
10 Questions with Craig Newmark, founder of craigslist
1. When did you come up with the idea for craigslist? What inspired you?
I really didn't; I just figured I'd run a list for San Francisco events involving arts and tech. People asked for more, and I did that, then got more feedback, and did that. Jim Buckmaster, my CEO, continues that tradition to this day.That's to say I have no vision; just listen to customers, and am committed.
2. Is craigslist non-profit? What is your business philosophy?
No, but we operate much like one, hence the confusion. We believe in people giving each other a break, in a culture of trust, kind of like a flea market.
3. What kind of feedback do you get from users? What are some of the success stories?
We get suggestions for improvement or sites for other cities, thank you notes and sometimes criticism, which we appreciate, and stuff like:
- people getting married via our site
- people finding their home, job, and furnishings through the site
- finding lost dogs
- getting a kidney donated
4. How do you manage scams and fraudulent users on CraigsList? This is a big problem at eBay.
Long story, but our flagging mechanisms are the first level of defense, and we have people who report problems to us. We have no tolerance for scams.
5. How did you get the capital to handle huge growth, new markets, and hire people? Was it all from cash flow?
All from cash flow.
6. You started in San Francisco. How many cities do you serve today?
190 cities, 35 countries
7. What is your relationship with eBay? Have you been tempted to compete and share some of the fame and fortune?
They own a minority share, and help us with fraud prevention. Ebay acquired 25% of the equity in craigslist from a former employee shareholder in August of 2004.
8. What are the daily stats for craigslist? How many page views, how many new listings, etc. How has it grown over time?
Well over three billion page views per month, about 7.5 million posts per month.
9. What would you like craigslist to be in five years? Have you fulfilled your mission
More of the same, with enhanced function, better customer service. Not possible to really fulfill our mission, it involves plugging away, forever.
10. What is your business model going forward? Can you be a “for profit” competitor to eBay and still satisfy your personal philosophy, mission, and goals?
What is a "business model"? I don't think we compete, since we're a community service, and the community helps us maintain our moral compass.
Craig Newmark has resisted the temptations of fame and fortune and stuck to his original plan. He is a humble guy who has accomplished great things. He is somewhat embaraased that he has become so well known, and even insists that craigslist be written in all lower case letters to de-emphasize his name.
I work with entrepreneurs and VCs everyday who strive to build a great product/service, build a great company, and create value for employees and shareholders. Craig has done all of these things, but in a very different way. The craigslist way.