Here Are Mark Zuckerberg’s Thoughts On Entrepreneurship

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Here are some of the pearls of wisdom Zuckerberg shared:

Where to start

“I always think that you should start with the problem that you’re trying to solve in the world and not start with deciding that you want to build a company. The best companies that could be built are things that are trying to drive some kind of social change, even if it’s just local in one place.”

According to Zuckerberg, “Building a mission and building a business go hand in hand.” As stated, the mission of Facebook is to make the world more open and connected. This mission, of consumers having closer relationships with businesses, musicians, etc., and forming connections with others is why Facebook exists. The business aspect of Facebook is to serve advertisements to people who are interested and expose them to brands that may appeal to them. Thus, people connect and meet new people and businesses on Facebook. Facebook’s mission and business truly do go hand in hand.

Maintain a culture of innovation

“I think the key is building a company which is focused on learning as quickly as possible. Companies are learning organisms, and you can make decisions that either make it that you learn faster or you learn slower.”

Zuckerberg later says:

“We place a really big premium on moving quickly. One of the big theories that I had about that, was that all technology companies, and probably all companies, just slow down dramatically as they grow. But if we can focus at every step along the way on moving quicker…then we’ll move as quickly as a company that only has 500 people, because we’ve invested so much in building up the infrastructure and tools and also the culture that tells people to take risks and try things out. I just think that that ability to build stuff quicker will be a big advantage for us and will help us build better products over the long term.”

In a talk at Startup School 2011, Zuckerberg says that entrepreneurs need to stay focused on providing value for users. He says:

“There’s like 1000 things going on at any point in given time [at Facebook], and there’s like one or two that actually matter. You need to focus on those….probably the most inspiring surprising thing is that you can be so bad at so many things, and learn along the way, and as long as you stay focused on how you’re providing value to your users and customers and you have something that is unique and valuable and you understand and that you’re providing, then you get through all that stuff….you have time to learn, you’re not going to know everything going into it up front, and that’s okay. Just stay focused on the stuff that you’re providing to your users. You’re going to make a ton of mistakes, it doesn’t matter. You don’t get judged by the mistakes, people don’t remember those years from now, they remember the things that you did that were good.”

Zuckerberg says it’s “fundamentally valuable” that the people who are making the product decisions also understand all the technical tradeoffs. “Having a company, where you have the same people thinking through the product challenges and the experience you’re trying to create, all the way down the stack to actually implementing it is a really critical thing.” Listen to your users, both qualitatively and quantitatively.


Keep learning

“When you do stuff well, you shouldn’t have to do big, crazy things. So you want to actually evolve in a way where you’re working with your community and making steps and learning.”

Zuckerberg elaborates at Startup School:

“Most companies mess up by moving too slowly and trying to be too precise. When you’re…moving quickly or doing anything like this you want to make mistakes evenly on both sides. We wanted to set up a culture so that we were equally messing up by moving too quickly and by moving too slowly some of the time. So that way, we’d know that we were in the middle.”

What some people initially perceived as mistakes have turned into successes for Facebook. For instance, when the new News Feed launched, featuring top stories organized by the Edgerank algorithm, users became outraged. Facebook Groups were started demanding “Bring Back News Feed.” Eventually, Facebook found a happy medium for users when they made it possible for users to see their old news feed, while also keeping the new News Feed.

Another instance where Facebook upset many users was the integration of Timeline into user profiles. The first impression of Timeline was overwhelmingly negative for many users. In fact, they didn’t like being forced into using Timeline so much that a verb, Timelined, was born. Eventually, the user screams faded and everyone is adapting to Timeline.

These events aren’t unusual for Facebook. They consistently tick off their users, but in the end, the new feature turns out to be for the better. Some users are against product iteration, but iteration is what keeps Facebook modern and ahead of competitors. It’s also quite difficult to keep 800+ million people happy at all times.

There are many other things Facebook users have rebelled against. It’s a love-hate relationship. But after all is said and done, users ultimately find themselves not migrating to any other service. What all these user frustrations with Facebook have taught us is that users aren’t very good at predicting what they like at first sight.

The key with mistakes is distinguishing between the “false positive” mistakes and the real mistakes. For instance, Timeline would appear to be a “false positive” mistake, meaning that it appeared to be a huge mistake at first, but ultimately turned out to be a success. Then there are the real mistakes, like Beacon.

Ultimately, as Zuckerberg has pointed out, people won’t remember the mistakes years from now. They’ll remember the value that you provided.