Evan Williams, the co-founder of Blogger and more famously Twitter, is a fascinating case study on the power of side projects.
You see, Blogger was a side project of Evan’s first company, Pyra Labs, as reported in a recent Forbes article.
Odeo, his second company, was built to create podcasting. It ultimately failed because iTunes literally killed them. Twitter, was a side project and is now a billion dollar company, at least in valuation.
In both cases we find that there was an initial idea that later created opportunities for much more successful ventures. These so-called side projects eventually became the core product and eventually the business.
I believe that everyone should have side projects. I believe that every company, both small and large (especially the very large Fortune enterprises), should require that every employee have a side project.
I don’t really care how the company would manage this initiative because there are enough great examples that already exist, like Google’s 20% time.
But the benefits could be untold to the larger company as some of these side projects could create incredible sources of innovation and profitability.
I have always had side projects. In fact, many of these side projects when I worked for big business either got me fired from my job or severely reprimanded. I didn’t stop though and eventually decided to work for myself and even here, in my present circumstance, I still have side projects (like this).
The point isn’t to create side projects with the explicit intent on creating new channels of business or business units – that’s entirely contrary to the core philosophy of a side project. The point is to allow individuals to express their god-given right and ability to create.
Create what you say? Anything.