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Since he started writing the long-form, stick-figure-illustrated blog Wait But Why in 2013, Tim Urban has become one of the internet’s most popular writers. Urban, according to Fast Company, has “captured a level of reader engagement that even the new-media giants would be envious of.” Vox describes Urban’s articles as “…a feast. At the end, you feel sated, like you just learned the shit out of something, like you get something in a way you didn't before … you will understand the world better for reading them.”
A world tired of a flood of short, shallow listicles quickly noticed—two months after Wait But Why was born, Urban’s article Why Generation Y Yuppies Are Unhappy swept the internet, becoming both the most shared and most commented-on article of the month on all of Facebook. Urban has since produced dozens of viral articles on a wide range of topics, from why we procrastinate to why artificial intelligence is scary to why we haven’t seen any signs of aliens. His articles have been regularly republished on sites like Quartz, The Washington Post, The Atlantic, Time, Business Insider, and Gizmodo. In 2015, Fast Company wrote that “Wait But Why is disproving the notion that thoughtful, long-form content and virality are mutually exclusive.”
Today, Wait But Why receives over 1.5 million unique visitors per month on average, with some month’s visitors topping 10 million, and the blog has over 380,000 email subscribers. The Wait But Why community of readers is also highly engaged, with every article generating hundreds of thoughtful, intelligent reader comments and some reaching well into the thousands.
Urban has gained a number of prominent readers as well, like authors Sam Harris and Susan Cain, Twitter co-founder Evan Williams, TED curator Chris Anderson, and Brain Pickings’ Maria Popova. Recently, Urban received a call from Elon Musk, who told Urban he liked his writing and asked Urban if he’d like to interview him and write about his companies. Urban accepted, and spent the next six months writing a thorough blog series that Vox’s David Roberts called “the meatiest, most fascinating, most satisfying posts I've read in ages.” Since then, Urban’s relationship with Musk has continued, as Musk invited him to host SpaceX’s launch webcast and solicited Urban’s input and slide illustrations in a talk he did at the December 2015 Climate Change Conference in Paris.
As Urban has taken off as a writer, requests for him to speak have steadily increased. He has done talks at companies like Facebook, Chartbeat, and Thumbtack, schools like MIT, Brown, and Stevens Tech, and conferences like Effective Altruism in Mountain View, Social Media Week in New York, and Sweden’s Øredev, after which conference head Anders Janmyr tweeted that Urban’s talk was “the best keynote in years.” Urban was also selected to speak at the 2016 TED Conference in Vancouver. Like his writing, Urban’s talks span many topics, involve stick figures, and combine depth and impact with humor and entertainment to delight and inspire his audiences.