We recently interviewed Sean Parker, the former President of Facebook, and his Airtime cofounder Shawn Fanning.Both believe that a business’ success is either calculated or an accident.
If it’s an accident and the company becomes successful by dumb-luck, it’s probably doomed.
Fanning used Facebook and MySpace as examples.
Myspace, says Fanning, never knew why it was successful.
“Having worked with them from the outside at a previous company and watching the level of insecurity there, it was totally clear that it was successful by accident,” he tells us.
“Myspace didn’t really know why it was successful so it was terrified to change anything. There was no overall planning strategy at all. To watch that take place and see it fumbling, then watch Facebook eclipse it over time, it was really interesting.
“You either stumble into success by sheer accident or you do it by good force with a lean startup model and by testing things. At the end of the day it’s always good to have a meta-view of the world and understand why things are the way they are, then let that dictate what you’re doing.”
Facebook, on the other hand, waited until it tested features thoroughly before every rollout. In some cases it waited too long — Parker says Facebook Feeds and Photos could have been released sooner. “We extracted all of the value, even from the initial use cases,” he says of Facebook.
How do you know you’re not successful by accident?
“I think the way to prove that you’re not an accident is to do things systematically over and over again for a long period of time,” says Parker.