Courtesy of this profile in the Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Williams was born on a soybean, corn and cattle farm near Clarks, Neb., (pop. 361), where he attended the single public school there. In a class of just 14, he took part in everything from sports to band (“In a school that small, everyone does it all,” he says.) But he was an indifferent student and felt like a black sheep at home, too. His father and brother loved to farm and hunt, while Evan, a vegetarian, preferred to read and ponder schemes for building enterprises.
Eventually he made it to the University of Nebraska, but he never declared a major, took as few classes as possible, and eventually dropped out. In the years that followed, Mr. Williams drifted around the country — Key West, Dallas, Austin — working various technology jobs and trying to pursue start-ups. But every time he got started on one idea, some new idea would pop into his head, luring him away and preventing him from ever following through on a project. “It was turning into a constant pattern,” Mr. Williams recalls.
By 1996, Mr. Williams found himself back on the family farm, with little money and few prospects. “I was in the dumps,” he recalls. He had long worshipped California’s Silicon Valley from afar, and now, with nothing to lose, he decided to move there. “Unfortunately, my aim was a little off,” he says, since he landed in the farming town of Sebastopol in Marin County, working for the old-guard media/conference firm O’Reilly Inc.
In the end, that proved fortuitous. What began as a marketing job ended up as an independent contractor job writing computer code, and in short order, Mr. Williams parlayed that into freelance work with legendary Valley companies like Intel and Hewlett-Packard. “For the first time, I learned what it was like to work in an office and have a normal career. To be in real meetings. I also learned that I didn’t want to do that.”
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