Craig Newmark: I Was Born a Nerd

Craig Newmark, 59,is an Internet entrepreneur known for being the founder of listings website Craigslist. Techmtaa.Com conducted a short email interview with him. Craig has not had a managerial role at Craigslist.Com for 10 years. He still is the nerd he was when he founded the site.

What is Your Educational Background? What Did you want to do in  life when growing up? How did you end up being a techie and a  nerd at that?

I got two degrees in Computing Sciences from Case Western Reserve University. Originally, I wanted to get into physics, maybe quantum physics or similar, then I decided I wanted a job, and I was already good with computers. As for being a nerd, I was born that way.

In creating Craigslist, what was running through your mind? Were you just experimenting or was it something you planned to succeed in no matter what?

I had seen a lot of people helping each other out, and so in early ’95, I decided I should do the same.  The beginning was a simple email list for technology and arts events in San Francisco, which grew slowly via word of mouth, turning into a site later on. That’s to say it was a hobby for several years, until I realized I had to get serious.

Why the name Craigslist?

From my perspective, had no name ’til middle ’95. At that point, had to give it a name, and since I’m pretty literal, wanted to call it
“sf-events”. However, people around me were smarter than me, told me they already called it “craigslist” and that I had inadvertantly created a brand, and I should use that. They were right.

What were some of the challenges you faced while creating Craigslist? How did you strive to overcome the challenges?

In the early years, when a specific customer service task was consuming too much time, I’d write some software to (usually partially) automate it.

What do you do when you are not working on Craigslist? Are you having some unique hobbies? What is your usual hobby? Are you onto charity?

I really don’t have a hobby, maybe I should. I’m involved with maybe as many as a hundred charities and public service groups,  some of which can be viewed at, and speak volumes.

Do you have projects in Africa? Do you intend to invest in any project in Africa?

There’s Organic Health Response in Kenya, which I’m supporting, mostly focusing on the networking side.

What one way are you making a difference in the world?

Well, you see on that I’m supporting a whole bunch of good efforts, one common theme is the use of technology for good.

What are your views on mentorship? Do you mentor young innovators?

Mentorship is something I wish I was good at.  All I can tell people is: Treat people like you want to be treated. Give people a break.
That translates into the best customer service you can do. But I don’t consider myself either a mentor or an entrepreneur


IMG (Stephanie Canciello)

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Written by Robert

Robert Alai is a respected Kenyan blogger, technical evangelist, and social justice activist. Robert is known for his hard-hitting articles and opinions disseminated through his Twitter handle or Facebook page. he is the founder of KahawaTungu.


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