Tom Taulli, Contributor, Forbes / Just a few years ago, the situation was looking dicey for Facebook. The company’s IPO was a disaster and it appeared that its strategy on mobile was in disarray. Interestingly enough, there was buzz that Mark Zuckerberg was really not cut out to be the CEO.
Well, of course, all this proved to be just another important stepping stone in Facebook’s tremendous success. After all, the company is one of the most valuable in the world, with a market cap of over $300 billion.
So then, what are some of the entrepreneurial lessons here? To get insight on this, I reached out to a variety of successful founders to get their feedback.
Here’s what they had to say:
Separate Business From Friendship: This is certainly not easy to do. Hey, when building a company, you will become very close to the team. But the founder/CEO still needs to understand that the goal is to focus on the company’s long-term prospects.
“Zuckerberg took the initiative to shed his co-founders quickly when he felt they no longer added value to Facebook,” said Kristen Koh Goldstein, who is the founder and CEO of Scalus. “What makes a team so good in the beginning stages — agility and accountability — is precisely what can break down as the business scales. When founding members become micromanagers that undermine the rest of the team, they can prevent a company from scaling and getting to the next level.”
“These five simple words perfectly embody the unique philosophy that made Facebook simultaneously realize unprecedented levels of innovation and velocity,” said Marius Moscovici, who is the founder and CEO of Metric Insights. “While most companies fight to preserve the current status quo that was the basis of their original success, Zuckerberg embraced the idea that ‘breaking things’ is essential to ongoing transformation. This worked brilliantly for Facebook when it became clear that a pivot to mobile was essential to Facebook’s future. In two short years, he executed a complete pivot to mobile and made that area of the business the central driver for all of Facebook’s growth.”
The Trick isn’t Adding Stuff; It’s Taking Away: All in all, this is kind of a Steve Jobs view of the world.
Yet it is interesting to note that there is often irresistible temptation for founders to just keep piling things onto a product. Somehow this gives the impression of more substance.
“Remember houseSYSTEM?” said Christian Turlica, who is the founder and CEO of UP Social. “This was actually the initial competitor of Facebook at Harvard. Greenspan, the founder, wanted to work together with Zuckerberg. According to Greenspan, Zuckerberg responded: ‘It’s too useful, it just does too much stuff’.”
Basically, when building a product, it’s very important to add just the things that are necessary for one very well-defined user story. Making the product into an airplane cockpit with every single action possible is detracting at best and will, at worst, kill your product.
Think Big, Start Small: VCs always want a big, juicy market, right? Definitely. But going big in the early days can be a killer.
“Zuck launched Facebook with a really small and easily reachable target market: college students,” said Matt Chasen, who is the founder and CEO of uShip. “He then expanded beyond his early adopters when he had achieved scale and opened it up widely. This was a controversial move and was obviously critical in making Facebook the ubiquitous platform it is today, following the ‘Think big, start small’ philosophy. Get traction with a group of early adopters and then expand.”
Tom Taulli (@ttaulli) is an Enrolled Agent and the founder of BizDeductor, which offers services and apps to help save a bundle on taxes.
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