Noah Everett's bio on twitter says "The nice guy that finished first - the founder of Twitpic." And that pretty much sums it up.
The web wunderkind started Twitpic as a weekend project after discovering he was unable to post pictures to Twitter. At last count, the site had 6.5 million users (and was growing by tens of thousand per day). Not bad for a guy who taught himself how to code.
After re-locating to Charleston recently, Everett has begun working on a new project called Heello, and although details are limited, the new company's goal is "to make communication easier," and "solve real problems - from communication issues to human needs."
Everett is one of three key note speakers at Geekend, the 2nd annual tech and design conference being hosted here in Savannah this weekend. We caught up with him by phone last week to talk about life in the South, his new project and the future of social media.
If the tech boom taught us anything it's that developers move west, not south. Why choose Charleston over Silicon Valley?
Noah Everett: I'm originally from North Carolina and moved out to the Midwest when I was younger. I saw the movie The Patriot with Mel Gibson was playing on TV, and it got me thinking about Charleston. I thought it was a really pretty city, so I came out here on a family vacation and ending up moving out here two weeks later because I just love the city so much. It's a great environment. I love downtown. The Charleston area kind of mirrors San Francisco a little bit. There's the harbor, the bridge and a great art environment. I love it.
Is there a tech community down here that you've managed to get plugged into? Or is it nice to be off on your own?
Noah Everett: There's a tech community here. Obviously, it's not as large as some of the larger cities, but it's pretty vibrant for what it is. Our goal, particularly with Heello, our new company, is to pull tech people from the larger metro areas like Atlanta, Charlotte, Raleigh and places like that with a startup mentality.
How is Heello going? It seems like it's got some lofty aspirations. Are you getting closer to honing in on that?
Noah Everett: We just started working on our first servers for Heello. Heello itself is just the name of the company. The product, which we'll talk about releasing in the next couple of months, is going to be called something different. Heello is an umbrella corporation to put a bunch of ideas under. We just started working on our first product. It's still under wraps right now, but we're hoping to have a beta version out in the next couple months and it will be in the social networking space.
Does launching something get easier once you've got the first one under your belt, or does each one have its own set of challenges?
Noah Everett: I've got some experience doing it before and know some of the challenges it might face, so maybe on the scaling side we'll be more prepared, on the business side. But whenever you build something and launch it for the first time, you don't know what's going to happen and how users are going to react to it; what features will they like; what direction will the product actually go.
Does Twitpic still take up a lot of your time? Are you stopping in with Heello every now and then when you can, or are you able to be pretty hands on?
Noah Everett: Our team focuses mainly on Twitpic. We're getting ready to do a large feature release in the next month or so. They're focusing mainly on that. I kind of broke myself off for a little bit to start developing our new product - mocking it up and getting a prototype, stuff like that. I come back to Twitpic on stuff that I'm needed for. I broke myself away, but our other engineers are working solely on Twitpic right now.
There was some ripples that went out after an interview where you mentioned turning down an offer of more than $10 million for Twitpic. Why not just sell out to the highest bidder? Do you know you'll get more next year, or do you get some satisfaction from continuing to work with the thing you built?
Noah Everett: At the time, when we turned that offer down, our growth velocity was starting to pick up tremendously so we knew we hadn't hit our potential yet. If we were gonna sell that wasn't the time because we knew we'd be under-valued. The other main part, I'm just having fun with it. It's a blast running something like this in the area of Twitter and social networking; how Twitpic is used for breaking news and celebrity stuff. It's a little bit of both. It's not ready, and I'm having too much fun.
With The Social Network holding the top spot at the box office for a couple of weeks, are we going to see a bio-pic about you on the way?
Noah Everett: We've had talks with a TV network about the possibility of doing a reality show slash documentary about me and Twitpic. That's in the early stages now. We'll see what comes out of it.
There's no arguing that social media has changed the world - the flow information, human relationships, economics - from your vantage point, does it seem like we'll reach a saturation point? Will it continue to make things more open or will we reach a point where people want to slow down?
Noah Everett: There's basically enough industry that's untouched by the internet. The new phase we're seeing now is the whole social networking part getting people on board. Almost everyone is on a social network. It's going to infiltrate every part of our lives and we're going to become accustomed to it. The generation before me, or my parents' generation, they're fairly private people and certainly aren't very comfortable sharing a lot of information over the internet. Whereas my generation, and the generation after me, are used to being on social networks and sharing information that it's a no-brainer for them. I'm assuming every generation moving forward, having this stuff around, it's going to become like having electricity in a house, you don't even realize it's there if you're using it.
Noah Everett's closing night keynote at Geekend
When: Saturday, Nov. 6, 5:30-6:30 p.m.
Where: Coastal Georgia Center, 305 Fahm St.
Cost: Weekend passes are $60/students or $165/general admission
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