Few people blog, full stop. Is the proportion smaller among successful entrepreneurs?
There are a few companies and people that stand out immediately: 37signals, Joel Spolsky, Jeff Attwood, Priceonomics and probably a bunch more that I just don't pay attention to.
The last three really come to mind because blogging is pretty important to their companies. A large reason that StackOverflow had a strong audience from day one is that both Spolsky and Attwood had good followings on their blogs.
Yeah, I'm pretty sure evidence to the contrary is stronger. A little googling tells me C-levels and founders of forbes 100 are often proflic bloggers. Novell, Cisco, Oracle, a lot of founders of big companies in India, and many here in the non-tech sector blog as well.
Insofar as commenting on HN and other similar sites is quite similar to blogging, there's a lot of others here too.
Craig and Mark are owners of companies or sports franchises (or own large amounts of equity in them), but are not CEOs. I'm not aware of the CEO of Craigslist, Jim Buckmaster, blogging. Nor am I aware of 2929 Entertainment's CEO, Todd Wagner (co-owned by Mark), blogging.
Also on some of the other folks listed in sibling comments, like Richard Branson, I'd be very surprised if he were the one posting on the Virgin "blog" under his name. Just as executives and politicians have speechwriters, they also have exec comm and marketing staff to write blog posts.
There are exceptions to every rule, but I generally agree with Keith's comment. For most successful entrepreneurs, the cost/benefit analysis just doesn't work out. Potential issues range from helping the competition to simply wasting time that would be better spent on the business. Additionally, entrepreneurs often have boards and shareholders that are scrutinizing everything they say. Unless someone has a burning personal desire to blog, there are just too many issues involved for already successful entrepreneurs to want to bother with it.
Those aren't the concerns for me (in-so-far as I'm "successful"). The main problems for me are:
1) time. Running and growing a successful company is an enormous sink of time, energy, mindshare, etc.
2) completeness of thoughts. I don't like to blog about stuff where I don't really know what I'm talking about. That unfortunately is also the most interesting stuff I could blog about at the moment. However, since it's still unfolding and the results of my decisions will take 6+ months or even years to arrive, it's difficult to make a cogent blog post about those decisions. Hindsight is a valuable tool for insight, but I'm still in the middle of all these things.
More importantly, pg's essays are marketing for YC. Without knowing the man, I would guess this is probably more a happy side-effect than a goal of his writing, but nevertheless the economics are clearly in favour of him writing.
There's a hint of at least two tenuous causative implications there: if you're successful, you ought to think twice before wasting time blogging (ie. blogging by the CEO adds no value to the business). Or the corollary: if you're blogging, chances are you're not yet successful (it's a marker for lack of success). Both are reaching.
Blogging by the CEO (founder) simply means that marketing is (also) done by the CEO. The founders and CEOs who don't blog probably delegate marketing activities to specialists (nothing wrong with that). You delegate when you don't possess the skills to execute. This will probably happen when the founders or CEOs don't possess the technical knowledge or expertise about their own fields.
It seems a little anachronistic as some of his essays predate even the word "blog", and he's been doing largely the same thing for years. If anything the notion of blogging has grown even more topical and ephemeral than ever.
To me, a "blog" is a particular format of online writing, but not all online writing is blogging. You can tell because newspapers often have blogs separate from their other content, drawing a distinction. I think there's a similar distinction between "essays that happen to be posted online" and "blogs".
I don't think PG's blogs are chronologically organized in any meaningful fashion. I also think that your definition is too broad, as it would include any self-published book series or maybe even the Bible.
Again that's so vague as to be meaningless--you have to order them somehow and I don't think having a page that lists them in chronological order makes it a blog. At the very least most blogs show the full content of multiple posts on the same page, or have links to previous and next posts.
I think the defining feature of a blog that's absent from Graham's essays is that blog posts can be intentionally insubstantial, sometimes containing nothing more than a link, possibly with comments. The least substantial essay Paul Graham has written is probably the one where he clarifies that he's not a racist just because he thinks having a thick accent makes it hard to be a CEO. I don't think he would consider posting intentionally insubstantial content to his list of essays.
What? Are you comparing idle blogging emmissions starting with "If you are like me" or "I have always been a huge fan of" or "What I will say has been said already here, there and there but I will repeat it anyway" with pg essays? Are you comparing playdoh "shapes" produced by an army of monkeys monkeying each other with the few and rare carefully carved gemstones we can read under pg's hand? Must be kidding...
Since pg can't always talk directly with each and every YC funded startup founder, I believe he writes his essays so all of them has a chance to get his message. Those texts are deeply related to his core duties at YC and no, I wouldn't call that "regularly blogging" - not even close.
(I can't believe the one night I decided to go out with friends, this is the thread that shows up on Twitter--my wheelhouse!)
I built and bootstrapped a tech company from the ground up in the Valley. Sold it in 2007 for 7 figures. Then took my personal blog and grew it into one of the top entrepreneurship blogs online. Now running a funded startup and just completed Techstars Austin.
Now that I think about it, my blogger friends and my tech CEO/CTO friends do run in different crowds. Most of the blogger types end up writing books (Tim Ferriss is an example I think HN'ers would be familiar with.) I turned down a book deal to go back and do another tech company because that's what I love to do.
There is a trend amongst bloggers to start software companies. Clay Collins' LeadPages is a good example; he's a crossover blogger/Internet marketer turned software company CEO. He just closed $5M in funding for LeadPages led by Foundry Group.
There are a few more up-and-comers in the blog world who are crossing over into software, but so far very few have made the leap--I think because the skillset is so different.
Weird to think that I'm rare, but it's an interesting viewpoint to hear from the tech community.
I'm not sure if you're trolling or you genuinely misread my comment--I'll assume the latter.
LeadPages generates real revenue to the tune of >$3M/year and is funded by Foundry Group as well as other angels and VCs. It is a legitimate business.
My company is funded by 500 Startups, Techstars, and a group of angel investors. We have one product on the market that is generating significant revenue, and are launching MarketVibe, our latest product, this month.
I would agree with the general premise of "successful entrepreneurs who blog are outliers."
Key points that as I discussed with Keith became clear we were using different definitions:
What is a blog? I'd content any direct communication with the internet at large is in the intent of "blogging".
Which CEOs should count? I have no idea. But for fun lets say $100M+ valued companies.
Does frequency matter? To Keith it does but I think its beside the point.
Does it have to be written personally by the CEO? I would argue not. Many blogs (Svbtle, Medium, Sequoia's) include editing or content help.
If you use the above criteria many many many CEOs blog. From Steve Jobs' letters explaining why Apple has it's stance on Adobe to Elon Musk's discussions about cars catching on fire. Then there are the by almost any definition bloggers mentioned elsewhere in this thread.
Perhaps there should be a timeframe clarification, "few successful entrepreneurs blogged while doing their venture that made them successful." I'd say for many of the successful entrepreneurs, it was only after they were "successful" that the opportunity to productively blog was opened up.
Some people really like writing, or blogging, so they do it anyway, whether is useful or not.
I think the point Keith is making that successful people don't have time to blog, or the blog really doesn't help that much. They prioritize their time to do things that actually matter for their business, rather than being on top of HN or being tweeted 1000 times.
It's not the whole truth. When you have actually "made it", had some successes, you don't need the promotion or visibility that much, but when you're just starting out, basically anything might help.
Those who don't engage at the top of the funnel won't be able to afford advertising to the bottom of the funnel.
I Can't think of a single founder who blogged high quality original content consistently for more than two years that didn't turn his audience and readership into a successful company.
There is a massive misconception about blogging and content marketing in general that gets ignored by people. Creating content that can't be found anywhere else, content that represents the true voice of the CEO or founder and their vision is top of the funnel marketing that makes advertising and regular marketing MUCH MUCH More effective.
Content is the long game, and builds on itself one reader at a time. Eventually it breaks through and than every piece of content you produce gets massive exposure. Exposure at a much more affordable price than any other strategy that exists in the universe today.
Tomorrows leading companies will be the ones that realize they must become the media company for their niche. They must be the go to place for the best information in their industry.
Startup CEO's that don't blog are missing out on the big picture and should really learn to prioritize the value they can create.
Just look at Moz.com and Hubspot. Two great companies poised for massive growth that built their audience by blogging, one reader at a time.
Obviously most "people" do not blog regularly. Whether it is CEO's of startups or chefs at top tier restaurants or whatever else you can think of. Does real questions is whether anyone have time for blogging? And the answer for the most part is no.
Yet a few people persist. People laughed at Fred Wilson when he started blogging. VC's mocked him. A decade later, every major VC started blogging and are falling over each other to start their own online entrepreneur magazine.
How is this to turn the question on Keith's head: founder CEO's that blog will in fact be a bigger deal and provide better "cost/benefit" than any other communications channel?
I think the primary point is that the successful founders we can think of don't blog regularly. I could think of a few exceptions to this that have been mentioned in other comments (Freedman, Musk, Spolsky, etc). However of the exceptions even fewer blog on a regular basis.
There will always be exceptions to this and I hope people don't read remarks like Keith's as how-to guides. It's only a pattern that fits the mold. Don't think that your time is always too precious to 'share insights & experiences' as Hunter stated. That should have its time and place as well. It's very helpful to outsiders such as myself.
Writers tend to be high-ideaphoria people. This should be pretty obvious.
In my experience, many successful businesspeople are not high-ideaphoria people. They may be very smart, talented, etc., but their tendency is toward singular focus, rather than an exploration of the interplay of ideas. So it seems natural they would tend not to write/blog. (And yes, I realize there are many exceptions, James Altucher being my favorite.)
There is no real causation between blog posting and the success of an entrepreneur but there may be a correlation between success entrepreneurs and whether they are likely to blog. At the end of the day, I don't think it matters. The CEO's transparency and image is all depending on what company it is. The CEO of IBM is less likely to blog than the CEO of Airbnb (I don't know if either of them blog, it's just a comparison).
Slightly meta, but this is one of the many topics that (1) will continued to be debated and (2) always draw attention. The problem with these statements is a fundamental issue with definitions.
What does successful mean? Raised a million in funding? Sold company for a million?
What is a blog? Is a magazine/newspaper turned digital considered a blog? Does a press release written by someone else count?
What is an entrepreneur considered? Someone who just started a company (less than 1 year)? Someone who's started 40 companies over 30 years?
Probably the most well known entrepreneur blog by what is considered a highly successful entrepreneur, is Richard Branson - http://www.virgin.com/richard-branson - but as far as I can tell he doesn't actually write any of it himself.
You know, when you make an interesting statement like this one, you have to keep quiet and let it sink. Let others debate on it and such. Go on with your day. But if you keep arguing and arguing, it loses all its value.
I think points #2 and #3 are the most important thing. Even if are a great writer, if your potential customers aren't going to be reading your blog, the only person you are helping is your competitors. It just doesn't make sense to blog, you are putting your own ego ahead of the success of your company. If writing helps you do your job better, write to a journal.
And if you think little bits of information can't help competitors, I strongly disagree. A little perspective (like where a company is focusing or where growth is coming from or whatever) can go a long way, and when you blog you are just leaking those things to everybody else.
Yes, as in anyone you meet in the street is a potential costumer. So this is a very weak counter-argument. But there are companies that have more economic value in maintaining a blog than others, YC, 37 signals, and other companies that market directly to people who work in the same business, will benefit more from famous blog posts from their CEOs than B2C companies or B2B companies that develop products for companies in different fields.
It really depends how you see success... "Success is working towards a predetermined goal" Earl Nightingale
How much money does a CEO need to make to be deemed successful?
For me people like Ryan Carson are successful because he is on a journey and whilst I admit he doesn't blog now as often as he used too, when he does blog it is about the journey he is on.
Mark Suster I would deem successful irrelevant of how much money he has and his blog is brilliant and regular and a great read for any entrepreneur.
Just my thoughts :)
I think he's largely correct beyond just VC-backed companies, though he did seem to go back and forth between "personal" blogging and company blogging. On a side note, I found his definition of success to be typical of an investor: If you get them a return, you're successful (oh, and "changing the world" means getting them a return). Pretty boring definition of success.
Viral B2C startups don't require blogs to grow. If your business requires a blog(it requires sales), it is probably B2B, or B2C with linear growth which takes a while and is likely not done by the CEO but by staff. Thus none of the unicorn models actually require a blogging CEO. A server scaling or coding CEO though would definitely fit the bill.
A parallel statement could be said about Wikipedia. I bet if you're a world-class expert at something, probably the last thing you want to do when you get home after a hard days work is log to Wikipedia and edit articles and deal with mods.
Still, Wikipedia manages to maintain a not-bad-for-a-first-try quality level on most science-y topics.
While I generally disagree with the sentiment, his observation for the subset he's talking about -- "world changers", e.g. Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, Zuckerberg, Brian Chesky, Drew Houston, etc -- is correct.
I think you got the Cause-Effect process backwards; when you are successful you will be too busy to blog, but to be successful, initially, you need to market yourself and your products through blogs...
Gary Vaynerchuk (garyvaynerchuk.com) blogs all the time and runs a highly successful, high growth marketing agency. Although, he mostly video blogs which can take less time than writing if you are good.
Very true. There is an obvious ROI for him. However, he is one of the busiest guys I know and still manages to make it happen. Regardless of incentive, it shows it is possible to manage both a high growth start up and a powerful personal brand.