Who Is Craig From Craigslist?

Raised in Morristown, New Jersey, Craig Newmark originally wanted to be a paleontologist, according to CNET. In college, at Case Western Reserve University, he discovered computers and that's when his life took a turn. He worked for IBM as a programmer after graduation, moving to San Francisco in 1993.

Living in the artistic and technological hub of San Francisco, Newmark found a way to get involved with the community: the internet. From his personal computer in his San Francisco apartment, Newmark began an email list of arts and technology events and then sent it to friends. As more people requested to be added to the list, Newmark added more categories of events. The popular email list eventually became known as Craig's List. Newmark got himself a free website to publish his list, which started Craigslist as we know it.

In an interview with CNET Newmark said, "I really didn't know what I was creating." However, even in the early days, he was fully aware of the internet's possibilities. Newmark continued, "The internet wasn't that much of a surprise to me in terms of what it was doing, what it could do, and all that. Because, science fiction. Because, nerd."

Expanding Cragslist

The very first email that Craig Newmark created through the mailing list was sent to about 10 to 12 people. What started out as an email about interesting events eventually grew to include items for sale and apartments for rent among other things. By the end of 1997, Newmark's page views had increased to a million a month, and it was a year later that he realized that he needed people to help run his growing business. However, Newmark revealed in an interview with Inc. that he was not a good manager. "I had trouble making touch decisions. I was not any good at the job interview process, and I made mistakes. I found it very difficult to fire anyone," he said.

Eventually, Newmark was able to find people that were better than him at handling the business, and he gave the CEO role to Jim Buckmaster. "I was able, to some extent, to divorce my ego from my CEO role. And I'd had a lot of lessons." Newmark hasn't been greatly involved in Cragslist's daily operations since 2000, but the company continued to grow under Buckmaster.

From small beginnings to $1.3 billion

Craigslist is now an online classifieds site used internationally as a forum to list jobs, goods, apartments, real estate, and countless other items and services. According to a Comscore report in June 2018 (via CNET), there were over 600 million recorded visitors to the site. The website generates over $690 million in annual revenue due to charges on some of the classified ads (like adult services ads), as Forbes estimates. In 2020, Forbes estimated Craig Newmark's net worth at $1.3 billion.

The New York Times suggests that Newmark's popular site has hurt local newspapers' revenue by drying up print classified ads, which used to be a steady source of income. But, Newmark also supports journalism through financial contributions – donating $15 million to journalism ethics programs in 2019. In fact, Newmark has shared his resources with many causes. 

Despite having one of the most popular online classified websites in the world and despite his philanthropy, Newmark likes to stay out of the limelight, according to CNET. He loves feeding birds in his spare time. "I'm not a birder," he told CNET in an interview. "The contract that we've made is that I will put out food and water for the birds. And then they come over to be watched." He could have been talking about Craigslist when he said this about his bird feeding hobby: "How I got into it, I'll never know."

Craig Newmark's philanthropic work

In 2015, Craig Newmark established Craig Newmark Philanthropies, an organization that offers grants to various groups that promote values including respect and fairness. This is Newmark's way of giving back to the community and contributing to the common good after finding financial success in Craigslist. "I'm an old-school nerd, doing what I can to support the people who fight to protect the values that America aspires to," he said (via Craig Newmark Philanthropies). The organization focuses on trustworthy journalism, veterans and military families, women in the tech field, and voter protection.

Since its establishment, Craig Newmark Philanthropies awarded grants to a number of organizations including the Poynter Institute for Media, Wikipedia, the Anti-Defamation League, ProPublica, and Mother Jones. Newmark also donated almost $200 million in 2020 to campaigns that opposed then-President Donald Trump, as reported by Influence Watch. In 2022, the organization pledged a $2.95 million grant to the Bob Woodruff Foundation that supports veterans and their families. In an interview with Case Western Reserve University, Newmark said that he supports these organizations financially, and he leaves the work to the experts who know what they are doing.