Doing Well By Doing Good

I don’t think Craig wanted to talk to me. For one thing, I smelled.

I woke up late and rushed out to get to the “Women Entrepreneurs” breakfast where Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist was speaking.

There were about 40 women there, Craig, and then me. I crashed the breakfast.

I had some questions for him. But he kept angling away from me. Don’t think I can’t read the body language, Craig!

I have to be honest: whenever I’ve started a business, its because I wanted to make money. A lot of it.

I think this philosophy destroyed my life for decades. Too eager to cash out. Never doing things that I loved doing for myself.

Craig just changed my mind.

When Craig moved to San Francisco from Detroit, he knew nothing about the city.

“My friends helped me. They told me good places to live, eat, places to visit, places to have fun.”

So he started sending out an email to all his friends about the favorite places he was discovering. He loved it. And people were excited to get his email.

He had no interest in doing a business. He was just trying to return the favor. Then he became passionate about it.

The email grew. And grew. until an email wasn’t enough and he made it a website. The website has barely changed in 20 years other than to expand cities.

Almost 100% of the site charges no money.

“We only started charging apartment brokers in Manhattan because they asked to be charged so they wouldn’t go out of business from various scams that were trying to hurt them.

“We charged them $10 per listing.”

Why did you charge so little?

“Because sometimes you only need to do enough. You don’t need to take every dollar.”

He said, “our business model is ‘Doing Well by Doing Good’.”

This is the opposite of the advice, “try to solve people’s problems and charge for it”.

He was simply doing what excited him. He did it for free because he loved it. He got good at it because he loved it and it was helping people.

I try now to think of the things that excite me. If you do this, some of those things will intersect with ‘doing good’.

Do the things that fascinate you. Not the things that solve other people’s problems. I want to do the things that make ME happy.

He has a multi-billion dollar business now. And what does he do now? He does more good.

But I think he didn’t like me.


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