Week 20- The Story of Facebook

Have you ever wondered what makes Facebook different from its rivals? What was it which made Mark Zuckerberg the perfect entrepreneur? Facebook obviously wasn't the first social networking platform but it has sustained while others have perished. So how does Mark Zuckerberg continue to retain Facebook as a global phenomenon?

Years ago, Facebook was a coding project in Mark Zuckerberg's dorm room.
Now it’s a global business with $4 billion of revenue that is used by 1/8th of the world's population. And it's worth more than $100 billion. When Facebook started, there were dozens of other social networks going after the same opportunity.
Facebook won. They lost.

Mark Zuckerberg built the first version of Facebook in his spare time in his Harvard dorm room. He didn't write a business plan. He didn't endlessly ask friends and advisors what they thought of the idea. He didn't "research the market," apply for patents or trademarks, assemble focus groups, or do any of the other things that entrepreneurs are supposed to do. He just built a cool product quickly and launched it.
And Facebook was born.

Meanwhile, outside the clubby world of Harvard, there were dozens of other entrepreneurs who had similar ideas. And lots of them launched those ideas. But, today, there's only one Facebook. Why? Because ideas are a dime a dozen. What matters is making them happen.

As the fictional Mark Zuckerberg told the fictional Winklevoss brothers in the movie: "If you had invented Facebook, you would have invented Facebook."

The first version of the "thefacebook" was very simple. It did one thing well. Then Zuckerberg and the Facebook team improved it over time. And, each time, they made sure that the service was still easy to use. When Zuckerberg and his co-founders rolled out Facebook, they carefully controlled new registrations. They added one school at a time, waiting until they were certain that their infrastructure could handle it. Thus, Facebook always "worked." In other words, Zuckerberg correctly identified one of the things that could kill Facebook--and he made certain not to fall prey to it.

Mark Zuckerberg was famously uninterested in Facebook's business in the early days. Instead, he focused all of his energy on Facebook's product. This product obsession went so far that Zuckerberg continually turned away advertising clients, because he didn't want ads to muck up the service. Ads weren't cool. Zuckerberg wanted Facebook to be cool. So if you want to build a great company, you have to build a great team. And building a great team means two things:
• Hiring well, and
• Firing well.

In Facebook's early days, the company made lots of hiring mistakes, but it addressed them quickly. Facebook was also good at replacing executives as the company outgrew them. If, as a public company, Facebook were beholden to the short-term needs of public shareholders, it might be tempted to cut research and development costs or takes other shortcuts to meet its quarterly numbers. But Facebook has always been controlled by Mark Zuckerberg. And Zuckerberg has always been more focused on building his long-term vision than on capitalizing on short-term financial rewards.

Instead of "focus-grouping" new features, Facebook has just rolled them out. Sometimes, these new features have been met with outrage and screams. Facebook has then adapted or killed the new features based on what it learns from the screams. In the case of "News Feed," for example, Facebook kept the feature but tweaked it to address some of its users' concerns. And this feature, which was initially hated, has gone on to become one of Facebook's most important features. Early in Facebook's development, Zuckerberg was such a lousy leader that one of his executives cornered him to tell him he needed "CEO lessons." From then on, Zuckerberg dedicated himself to learning as much and as fast as he could.

To help with this, he cultivated a group of advisors, including some of the best entrepreneurs, investors, and executives in the country. This group included Steve Jobs, VC Marc Andreessen, investor Peter Thiel, Jim Breyer of Accel Partners, Warren Buffett, Donald Graham of the Washington Post, and many others. Zuckerberg learned as much as he could from each of these men, as well as from many of the executives he recruited to Facebook. And, gradually, he became a great leader. Facebook kept running as fast and hard as it could, putting as much distance between itself and its competitors as possible. It kept poaching talent from competitors and would-be competitors. Every time a new start-up invented something cool, Facebook copied it. It kept its progress in perspective: Mark Zuckerberg is fond of saying that the company is only 1% done. And so on.

Andy Grove famously said that "only the paranoid survive." In most businesses, that's accurate. If you ever think that you're done, you're done.

Summing up, the reason that Zuckerberg is such a successful entrepreneur is: Facebook and Zuckerberg always focused more on innovation and growth rather than the stock market and economics in general.

-Swanand Bhave (Writer of the Week)
SE, SIES Graduate School of Technology

Facebook is not the only social networking site, but it is arguably the most popular one. Its founder Mark Zuckerberg, at just 24 years of age, became the world’s youngest billionaire. 
So, what makes Facebook different from the rest? What was it which made Mark Zuckerberg the perfect entrepreneur?

Zuckerberg had an idea, he had a purpose - he wanted to personally satisfy a global need to connect.

But then again, that was what many other social networking sites aimed towards. 
Facebook has done a lot of things right. It scaled well (unlike Friendster); has a great user interface (unlike MySpace).

Besides MySpace and Friendster, the most used social networking site was Orkut. In Orkut, it was possible for anybody to view anyone's pictures, videos as well as scraps, but people started misusing the photos and videos and placing them on the Internet with fake details. But Facebook is more user friendly as it gives some privacy settings by default and it is very easy to customize them.

Another area where Facebook dominates the social networking market is activity from Corporates. Most businesses have a Facebook page. With corporate pages on Facebook, users get up-to-date information about the businesses, and it allows users who manage different household affairs to have a firsthand contact with their suppliers of products and services.

Facebook has become an “all in one” sort of website- you have your friends circle, work group, event scheduler etc- all at one go.
What has made Facebook sustain is the fact that Zuckerberg learnt from mistakes, others’ as well as his own. Mistakes are part and parcel of life, he learnt from them and moved forward; making mistakes did not stop him from experimenting (news feed, timeline etc). He understood that one cannot always be good at everything. He knew where he was lacking i.e., communication skills so he hired an expert to work that field of area because of which he could get the marketing done.

Facebook has increased in its popularity because of the Facebook app which is available for every smartphone user, making it a lot more accessible. 

To sum it up, Mark Zuckerberg had a vision, he worked towards achieving it. As an entrepreneur, Zuckerberg knows that there is always room for improvement; so he has ensured that, as the technology grows, Facebook adapts itself with it and constantly reinvents itself and keeps up with the younger generation.

-Sukanya Rangarajan
SE, SIES Graduate School of Technology

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