Early Facebook investor Peter Thiel spoke at an event for student entrepreneurs at Stanford this evening, and he told the story of Facebook and Yahoo as a cautionary tale about why founding CEOs are important.
The story has been told before — most notably in The Facebook Effect — but Thiel added some detail, saying that if a professional CEO had been running Facebook at that point, “it would have been sold for one billion. It wouldn’t even have been a topic of debate. It would have been a no brainer.”
He also admitted that he and fellow board member Jim Breyer, another early investor, were biased toward selling but that Mark Zuckerberg, who was 22 at the time, didn’t want the money. He wanted to build a social network. As Thiel put it:
Zuckerberg said “the only thing I’d do is start another social network, and it’d be the same as this one, and this one’s running pretty good so I don’t want to sell it.”
Thiel also reiterated his belief that we’re in an education bubble — he thinks higher education pricing has grown faster than any other sector of spending, and the economics don’t work for all but the top (most expensive) schools.