Peter Thiel bought Mark Zuckerberg a car before he got rich, and it's where the CEO had an epiphany that changed Facebook forever

  • The early Facebook investor Peter Thiel bought Mark Zuckerberg a car before the Facebook CEO got rich, according to the social network’s cofounder Chris Hughes.
  • Hughes said the new vehicle, an Infiniti SUV, was the venue for something of an epiphany for Zuckerberg – it’s where he realised that Facebook could not fail.
  • He seemed to suggest that it was this moment that perhaps sparked Zuckerberg’s relentless and at times reckless pursuit of growth.
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Facebook cofounder Chris Hughes has penned a New York Times op-ed rounding on Mark Zuckerberg and calling on the social network to be broken up.

It’s an expansive essay that recommends a simple solution to address Facebook’s monopoly: splitting Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp in three. But it’s not only a corporate polemic.

Among the 6,500 words of carefully crafted criticism are one or two anecdotes about the early days of Facebook, during which Hughes and Zuckerberg were just starting out in building a business that would attract 2 billion users.

Read more: A Facebook cofounder has written a blistering New York Times op-ed arguing that Mark Zuckerberg’s social network should be torn apart

In one story, Hughes said that the early Facebook investor Peter Thiel bought Zuckerberg a car. It was 2005, and Zuckerberg was driving an “unreliable” Jeep around the San Francisco Bay Area, so Thiel gifted him an Infiniti SUV.

Hughes described in vivid detail a conversation he said he had one evening with Zuckerberg, who was behind the wheel of his new vehicle. Here’s what Hughes wrote in The New York Times:

One night during the summer of the Myspace sale, I remember driving home from work with Mark, back to the house we shared with several engineers and designers …

As we turned right off Valparaiso Avenue, Mark confessed the immense pressure he felt. “Now that we employ so many people …” he said, trailing off. “We just really can’t fail.”

Facebook had gone from a project developed in our dorm room and chaotic summer houses to a serious company with lawyers and a human resources department. We had around 50 employees, and their families relied on Facebook to put food on the table. I gazed out the window and thought to myself, It’s never going to stop. The bigger we get, the harder we’ll have to work to keep growing.

Hughes seemed to suggest that it was this moment that perhaps sparked Zuckerberg’s relentless and at times reckless pursuit of growth – an ethos that famously spawned the “move fast and break things” mantra that Facebook once lived by but now disavows.

Facebook now employs 38,000 people, has annual revenues of $US56 billion, and is valued at more than half a trillion dollars. But Hughes said 2018 was the firm’s “annus horribilis,” when the engine room that propelled its growth – the collection and exploitation of user information to power ad-targeting on an industrial scale – spluttered amid controversies such as the Cambridge Analytica data scandal.

A bit like Zuckerberg’s old Jeep, Hughes said it’s time for a Facebook reboot.

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