From Growing Up On A Farm To Founding Twitter

by Tim Jahn on May 13, 2014

Ev Willams, founder of TwitterI’m from Chicago, the third largest metropolitan area in the US, so I’m used to big. Big buildings, big traffic, big airports, a big lake, big beaches, big festivals, big weather.

But for some people, big means something a bit different. While Ev Williams was growing up, big meant Omaha, Nebraska.

Ev (founder of Blogger, Twitter, and Medium) grew up on a farm two hours west of Omaha and Omaha was a big city he only visited once in a while. His interest in technology started when he trekked to the local bookstore in the next town over and brought home an early issue of Wired magazine.

Two main thoughts stuck with me after Ev’s recent presentation (at Big Omaha) about the past 20 years of his entrepreneurial journey.

1. It truly doesn’t matter where you’re from

I’ve always been a firm believer that your location won’t define your success in life. Ev’s presentation really drove that home for me. He literally grew up on a farm in rural Nebraska and went on to found several successful technology companies (and he hasn’t stopped yet!).

Success comes from the opportunities presented to you and what you do with those opportunities. Location can improve the available opportunities but regardless of location, you can work to create your own opportunities.

2. Think big (but start small)

When Ev was working at Google (after his company Blogger was acquired), he saw the enormous scale of projects they liked to tackle there. Google didn’t want to just scan some books – they wanted to scan every book ever into digital form.

At the time, Ev was worried about just getting his rent paid. He saw the importance of thinking big, but remembering to start small.

Unless we’ve hit it big and no longer fret about basic financial needs, most of us still have to worry about paying the rent and the bills. It’s hard to think big, but often times, those sorts of ideas are the ones that keep us driving forward.

If you’ve never been to Big Omaha before, I highly recommend it (for all these reasons here).

Photo (cc) Kenneth Yeung –

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