New Decade, New Ideas
Next month will be the tenth anniversary of the launch of Medium. As we gear up for the next decade, I’ve decided to hand over the CEO reins.
Back in 2012, I wrote:
Now that we’ve made sharing information virtually effortless, how do we increase depth of understanding, while also creating a level playing field that encourages ideas that come from anywhere?
For almost ten years, we’ve been striving to answer that same question. Along the way, we’ve given millions of writers and billions of readers a place to share and find knowledge and ideas.
During that time, we’ve never taken our focus away from our core beliefs: That people from everywhere and from all kinds of circumstances have valuable perspectives to share and are capable of doing so in thoughtful, articulate ways. And, also, that the world is better if they do.
That’s why Medium exists. We aim to make it simple to share deep thinking and easy to find the thinking that’s valuable to you. In a world of endless complexity, I believe those needs are universal and not going away.
In the process of serving this purpose, I’m proud of the work we’ve done to raise the bar for how the web looks and works, helped pioneer a healthier model for content that doesn’t hijack or sell people’s attention or data, and stuck to our principles when there were much easier alternatives.
In the next phase of Medium, I will still be involved, as chairman of the board. But I will no longer be running the company day-to-day. That honor will go to Tony Stubblebine.
Who is Tony Stubblebine?
Tony is a long-term partner of Medium’s and an even longer-term collaborator of mine. I first worked with him 17 years ago at Odeo, where he ran engineering. Tony went on to do his own thing instead of joining Twitter — several of his own things, in fact.
In thinking about who might replace me, Tony was one of the first people that came to mind. I then talked to a bunch of other people…and came back to Tony. He has deep knowledge of Medium from running some of the biggest publications on the platform. He understands the network and what creators need to succeed better than almost anyone. He has a clear POV on how Medium can be better, and a passion to make it so.
Tony is a builder, a writer, an open-minded thinker, and a keen businessperson. I’m confident Medium will benefit greatly from his vision, integrity, energy, and pragmatic leadership.
Medium has always attracted great talent who want to do meaningful work. I am grateful to the hundreds of team members who have contributed to building Medium under my leadership — as well as the investors, board members, subscribers, writers, and others who have supported us.
To be clear, Medium’s story is far from over. The team today is probably the most capable I’ve seen at this company. I’m excited to see what they do.
I have learned a tremendous amount during my time as CEO. When you go to start your third or fourth company, it’s easy to assume you know the likely pitfalls and challenges you will face. And that’s true, to some extent. But every new company is like climbing a new mountain no one’s ever been on. Just because you have some basic skills doesn’t mean you know what lies ahead. There are always new mistakes to make — new ways to die. Navigating those is what makes this job endlessly challenging and rewarding.
As would be appropriate for Medium, I do plan to write more about my learnings when I have some time to reflect.
The primary pursuit of my adult life has been building systems that enable the exchange of knowledge and ideas.
In the time I’ve been working on it (dang near 30 years), the internet has gone from nerd hobby to the circulatory system that pulses through society on a 24/7 basis carrying virtually all culture, information, and entertainment.
The internet used to be about the internet. Now it’s about everything. And it affects everything.
A major thing that’s come to light since the early days is that democratizing media is a lot more complicated than we anticipated. I.e., there’s a lot of bad that came with the good. But that doesn’t mean we should stop trying to create a better information ecosystem. In fact, isn’t that the reason we should definitely not stop trying?
I will continue to be interested in these types of questions — i.e., the kind that led to Medium (and Blogger, and Odeo, and Twitter). But I’m also interested in many other things.
Outside of lots of time with friends and family, I plan to spend the next few months (or years) learning as much as I can about things I don’t know a lot about. I also plan to start a new holding company/research lab to facilitate this learning, to be helpful to Medium and other companies I believe in, and to keep doing what I’ve always found most interesting — opening doors to the adjacent possible.
So much is possible.