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“Great ideas are Obvious in retrospect.”

Photograph San Francisco Sunset by Nathan Camarillo on 500px

San Francisco Sunset by Nathan Camarillo on 500px

The title of this post is a line from a Medium post that Biz Stone wrote back in August 2012. For those of you who might not know, Biz Stone is one of the cofounders of Twitter, as well as the cofounder of something called The Obvious Corporation.

Obvious is a “company” that I’ve been following on and off for a number of years – I’m fascinated by the model and how it has evolved. It was founded back in 2006 by Biz Stone and Ev Williams (another Twitter cofounder) as a kind of “product lab” for new ideas. But since then it has gone through a number of iterations.

Though I suspect that most people haven’t heard of Obvious, it was actually the parent company of Twitter before Twitter took off and became independent.

But even more interesting is the fact that Twitter was actually a side project for a company called Odeo (a failed podcasting startup) that in turn was owned by Obvious. So specifically, Twitter started as a side project of one of the companies within a larger “product lab.” Nobody said innovation was straightforward.

When Twitter eventually took off, their focus naturally shifted away from Obvious to it. They had a rocket ship of a company to build and run. 

But in 2011, Ev and Biz, along with Jason Goldman (of Twitter), decided to “reboot Obvious.” The most notable outcome of this reboot has been the creation of writing platform Medium, which I believe still technically sits within Obvious. (Click here if you don’t know what Medium is.)

Then in December of last year (2014), Ev Williams announced the third chapter of Obvious – now called Obvious Ventures – with this post called: It’s Obvious. Again. In short, they’re a venture capital firm with an approach that they call #worldpositive:

We’re entrepreneurs. We’ve helped a lot of companies launch, grow, and generate great financial returns. A few of these companies also deliver positive social and environmental benefits with every dollar of revenue they earn. We want to fund and build more of those. That’s what we call #worldpositive venture capital.

Already they’ve publicly announced investments in 10 companies, one of which I’ve written about before on Architect This City (Flux.io).

I decided to tell this story today for 3 reasons.

It shows you how non-linear innovation and careers can be. I love the idea of #worldpositive investing. And finally, because some of the startups that Obvious Ventures has invested in – such as Flux.io and Loup – are directly related to the future of cities.

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