My Own Memo to Zuckerberg: Don't Listen to Any of Us
Just wrapping up my morning of blog reading-- amid a flurry of radio interviews-- and I saw Kara's memo to Zuckerberg. I think she made some good points. Particularly about the pressure he'll get if he turns down a Microsoft offer and the point that there's nothing "basic" about whether Facebook should sell. As this news of Facebook traffic falling spreads, the "sell! sell! sell!" drumbeat Kara refers to is only going to grow louder.
So here's my own memo to Mark: On the very off chance you are reading any of this, stop. Don't listen to any of us. It's your company. It's your vision. If we knew what was best for Facebook, we wouldn't be bloggers and reporters. You've gotten this far without us.
The first time I interviewed Mark it was over the phone and he was 19 or 20. He'd just closed his Accel deal and was obnoxiously bragging about how he could never be thrown out as CEO. He was saying things no entrepreneur says in the Valley. In other words, he was being honest, and young, but not playing the game. I hung up the phone and thought "Oh boy, what a train wreck." I thought there was no way possible this would turn into a viable business. I was wrong.
Just like we were all wrong to say Facebook should have sold to Yahoo for $1 billion. The scoop on that deal is in my book. Spoiler: Mark convenes the board meeting by looking at his watch and saying "8:30 seems as good at time to turn down $1 billion as any."
I paraphrase Jim Breyer and others in my book describing Mark's evoluation as a CEO at the time of the deal:
"As a founder, Mark is an odd combination of heart and mind. He navigates product strategy by his gut, but he navigates business strategy via a highly analytical measurement of users, growth, engagement and other stats. Both argued against the deal. His gut was telling him he wasn't finished creating the site, his ultimate vision. His analytical mind was telling him that $1 billion simply wasn't enough."
We can all pretend now we agreed back then it was a smart move. But I know few rational human beings who would have reacted that way to personally pocketing more than $300 million. And that's what makes great entrepreneurs: They are not purely rational beings.
Of course, I have an utterly selfish motive for telling Mark to go his own way: I want to see how it all turns out. But my hunch is finding that out drives him a lot more than a payday or fear of shareholder lawsuits too, for now. But it's the catch-22 of success: If Facebook stumbles, Mark did wrong by his shareholders and is a pariah in the build-em-up-tear-em-down Valley news cycle. If it continues to grow, he just has to grapple with this again, maybe with another company, definitely at an even higher price tag.
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