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Bates Center for Entrepreneurship and Leadership

Marshall Kirkpatrick

On November 6th, 2014, the Center for Entrepreneurship hosted a dinner with Marshall Kirkpatrick, CEO and co-founder of Little Bird.  Kirkpatrick discussed his journey that led him to create Little Bird, and how it happened through his passion for blogging.  

In the early stages of social media, while Kirkpatrick was still in college, he realized the power that it gave people to publish and access content to and from anybody in the world.  He quickly learned more and more about blogging, wikis, and RSS feeds, only growing his excitement about the power social media gave to voices around the world.

When he graduated, Kirpatrick spent all of his free time blogging.  He started attending industry events, and got hired as a blogger for AOL for whom he wrote four posts a day about industry news.  After that he, he got a job doing interviews with various innovators on their lessons learned.  Next, he was hired to write six articles about international currency speculation before 9am, at which point, he quit his day job to blog full time.  

He constantly did experiments on different ways to discover new information and to project his voice on social media.  He tested ways to learn about news before other bloggers and how to work with data to research more efficiently.  He followed some 40 companies and developed a tool to receive a text message every time one of these companies posted a blog.  If it sounded interesting, he would write his own post about it.  This method allowed him to break news stories before anybody else, and was so successful that Michael Arrington, founder of TechCrunch, hired him as his first writer.  TechCrunch later became one of the most influential tech blogs in the world.

The day after leaving TechCrunch, Kirkpatrick wrote a blog announcing that he was going into consulting, and included in his post his best practices for getting news first.  This article quickly received hundreds of thousands of hits.  To this day, many bloggers still use his techniques to get real time information.

As a result, Kirkpatrick received many job offers, and took a postition at ReadWriteWeb.  While there, he continued to experiment on ways to use data and tools to discover new information. Kirkpatrick loved using different strategies to find the best information on the web, but wanted them to be used by a larger audience.  While doing consulting work on the side, he was often asked by large companies for a list of thought leaders and experts in a given field.  He would then use the various tools he had developed to find the best RSS feeds and bloggers to subscribe to.  

When in Ireland, a client contacted him and told him to charge them twice as much.  That was when he decided to turn this process into a product.

Kirkpatrick started trying to raise money, but venture capitalists continually turned him down.  He then starting contacting all the high net worth individuals he had ever met in his blogging career - one of which was Mark Cuban.  Kirkpatrick contacted Cuban with all sorts of interesting information about the Mavericks, and told him he didn’t know anything about the team, but that he had software that could do this kind of research in minutes.  Ten minutes later, Cuban had responded, and within days, had invested 750k in Little Bird.

Little Bird finds the “influencers” in any network, and the content they are most excited about.  The software then helps companies like Walmart, AutoDesk, and The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation find and connect with experts in their industries.

Kirkpatrick is passionate about the opportunity for the world to discover new voices in social media.  He sees it as a tool that allows anybody around the world to discover and to be discovered.  In his talk, Kirkpatrick showed his passion and expertise for blogging and social media, and most importantly, how following his passion lead to success.


Bates Center for Entrepreneurship and Leadership

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