HOFFMAN: If everyone was so eager to express themselves in writing, Ev figured it would only be a matter of time before they’d start sharing ideas in audio. He figured: Speaking was even easier than writing. So the quickest path to share a thought from one brain to another might just be audio.
So, in 2005, he launched a new company, Odeo. He envisioned it as the premiere platform for podcasting. And not just podcasting. Switching from writing to speaking, it would be even bigger than Blogger. It had to be.
[0:32] WILLIAMS: I thought audio given my experience with blogging I thought, “Oh, well, this is even easier because talking is easier than writing.”
And it turned out talking maybe easier than writing, but creating listenable podcasts or listenable audio content is actually much harder than creating readable text.
HOFFMAN:As a new podcaster, I can tell you, Ev is absolutely right about that.
[0:58] WILLIAMS:I realized audio was actually a less casual form, if you will, and could be very powerful, but it’s just much harder to do and not within the bounds of what most people can sit down and do even if they had great stuff in their head.
[1:11] HOFFMAN:Ev secured $5 million in funding, he built a platform for podcasters to publish their work and listeners to discover content. It was expensive. It was ambitious. You might even call it a marketplace. Or not.
WILLIAMS: I don’t know if we called it a marketplace, but we were gonna do discovery and creation, and you know, this big comprehensive thing. And before we launched anything, Apple came out with podcasts integrated into iTunes, which kind of blew our minds, because it was so early.
[1:40] HOFFMAN:When Apple beats you to market, it’s never a good sign. Especially when your company’s potential audience is Apple’s installed base of iPod owners. Ev wasn’t sure what his next move would be.
WILLIAMS: So, I went to the team and we did this very deliberate process where I said, I don’t know if podcasting or Odeo’s our thing. Who’s got ideas? And we did essentially a hackathon.
[2:03] HOFFMAN:The hackathon has become a tried-and-true method of generating ideas. The process is simple: You bring together all of your employees — traditionally, it would focus on the technical employees, but smart companies engage everyone. And you challenge them to come up with an idea they can build in one marathon hacking session. Usually, everyone is trying to solve for a specific problem. In Ev’s case, they were solving for the company’s future: What should they do next?
This Odeo hackathon proved unusually fruitful. Historically so. Odeo’s Co-Founder Biz Stone and web designer Jack Dorsey came up with the winning idea.