WSJ Interview with Social Entrepreneur Craig Newmark

I relied heavily on Craigslist during my days running a small real estate leasing and management firm in SF between ’02 and ’04. I never spent a penny on print ads, posting all of my listings Craigslist (you wonder why I love the internet?). In my social entrepreneurship course last semester I learned that Craig Newmark, creator/founder of Craigslist had a foundation and was working in Virginia on the Phoenix Project in order to grow social entrepreneurship and solve regional policy and market failures. Phoenix Project leaders Marion and Greg Werkheiser presented to our class.

Today’s WSJ has an interview with Craig Newmark, detailing his career path and also his motivations . Its clear from his statements that he is a born social entrepreneur who was lucky enough to live in an age full of technological opportunities. The world is better for it. Here are some snippets from the interview by Elizabeth Garone:

Some people know the story of Craigslist’s origins, but refresh our memories.

In 1994 I was at Charles Schwab. On my own initiative, I started evangelizing the Net as the basis for all kinds of brokerages, via lunchtime classes and demonstrations. I saw a lot of people helping one another, and in early 1995, I decided to give back a little, via a simple email list for arts and technology events in the San Francisco Bay Area.

The list grew, and when it came time to give it a name, I was going to go with “sf-events,” but friends told me everyone was calling it “craigslist,” so I went with that.

Politics seems to be on your front burner these days. Why the sudden interest? Should we expect a political run in your future?

I’m not really interested in politics in the conventional sense. However, we’re in a pivotal point in history. Representative democracy is being complemented by serious, large-scale grassroots democracy, and it feels right to help accelerate that process. I already have a job. I’m committed to Craigslist customer service, but only as long as I live. And it’s too humid in Washington, D.C.


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