Biz Stone, Co-Founder of Twitter is Keynote for #HIMSS12

February 24, 2012
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EXCLUSIVE POST – HIMSS made the unusual move of inviting Biz Stone, cofounder of Twitter, to be the keynote for the largest health IT conference of the year. Kicking off the conference with a Silicon Valley startup leader, HIMSS sent a very different message about the future of health IT. Biz Stone’s presence even caught the attention of Forbes.

EXCLUSIVE POST – HIMSS made the unusual move of inviting Biz Stone, cofounder of Twitter, to be the keynote for the largest health IT conference of the year. Kicking off the conference with a Silicon Valley startup leader, HIMSS sent a very different message about the future of health IT. Biz Stone’s presence even caught the attention of Forbes.

Although Biz is best known for cofounding Twitter, he also worked for Google on the Blogger.com team and started other companies as well. He advises startups and  teaches an annual master class at Oxford. In true Silcon Valley style, CrunchBase has a better biography on Biz than Wikipedia.

In his keynote, he promised five stories and seven assumptions. The stories included a startup which did not make it but lead to the development of Twitter. Next was bringing an early version of Twitter to the South by Southwest Festival in 2007 which lead to flocking behavior and convinced him to incorporate. His experience with the Boy Rangers lead him to start and captain a lacrosse team – good preparation for an entrepreneur which lead him to the conclusion that “opportunity can be manufactured.”

His seven principles are:

  1. We can change the world, build a business and have fun. This is what he tells his employees, with an emphasis on not just building the business and making money but to have enough passion about what you are doing  and enjoying it a t the same time. This relates to another Biz  life lesson:” To success spectacularly, be ready to  fail spectacularly.”
  2. We don’t always know what’s going to happen. Here is his emphasizing the uncertainty in startup land but not to be paralyzed by this.
  3. There is a creative answer to every problem. He passionately believes in the unlimited capacity to find creative solutions.
  4. There are more smart people outside your company that inside.  New companies can think they are the smartest ones in the Valley and they will succeed where others will fail. Openness to smart ideas outside one’s organization is equally true in healthcare. Even a willingness to look at business models and solutions from other industries is a recipe for success and innovation.
  5. We’ll win if we do the right things for users. Any software company needs to realize this. When you make things hard for users you are headed for failure. How about EMR vendors, hospital IT help desks and developers – do the right thing and reach out to your users.
  6. The only deal worth doing is a win-win. Biz is not necessarily a softy when it comes to business but he does not see hostile takeovers as a solution.
  7. Your coworkers are smart and they have good intentions. If every business had this orientation, there would be many more best places to work. In hospitals, with a highly educated workforce, this type of environment needs to be fostered. It is also in the best interest of the patient for healthcare professions to show mutual respect.
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In the brief question and answer after his presentation, the audience asked about the use of Twitter to accelerate ideas. Biz gave the example of using Twitter for fund raising – using the network effect it creates to generate an exponential outpouring of support for good causes. He also talked about how his orientation is not about the triumph of tech but the triumph of humanity. He believes every startup should take up a cause early on and stick with it. His is a non-profit which supports HIV drugs in Africa which produces the Lazarus Effect – not only reviving the ill but also renewing the geo-economic region. Another Biz aphorism – “There is compound interest in altruism.”

When asked specifically about social media in health care, he had a couple of responses: social media will help us put health in our own hands and to understand the impact of social media on healthcare organizations, we should consider sentiment analysis, analyzing aggregate tweets.

Lessons learned for the HIMSS attendees were many but perhaps the most important lesson is to think like an entrepreneur and humanitarian.  Use creativity to change the world.