On Saturday, Mark Zuckerberg spoke at Y Combinator’s Startup School event where he gave engineers and founders business advice.One of the most interesting things he discussed was a personal fear.
Zuckerberg said he was afraid of getting stuck working on something insignificant.
“I have this fear of getting locked into doing things that are not the most impactful things you can do,” he said.
“I think people really undervalue the option value in flexibility. Explore what you want to do before committing,” he told the room of entrepreneurs. “Keep yourself flexible. You can definitely do that in the framework of a company, but you have to be weary of working at a company and getting locked in. You’re going to change what you do.”
- Facebook started as a hobby, not a company. “I started building Facebook because I wanted to use it in college…we weren’t looking to start a company,” he said.
- Zuckerberg assumed someone else would create the company Facebook is today. “I thought that over time, someone would build a version of [the college-only Facebook] for the world, but it wouldn’t be us — it would be [a large existing software company] like Microsoft.”
- Facebook grew slowly compared to companies today. “It took a year for us to get to one million users and we thought it was incredibly fast,” he said.
- Zuckerberg doesn’t understand the notion of wanting to start a company before deciding what you what you’re going to build. “Facebook, I didn’t start to ‘start a company’… it was mostly just through wanting to build it and having it be this hobby and getting people around me excited. It eventually evolved into a company… but I never understood the psychology of wanting to start a company before deciding what you wanted to do,” he said.
- Facebook learned what features to build by watching its users. For example, it didn’t launch photos out of the blue. It noticed users were swapping their profile pictures every day, and that it’d probably be useful to create a broader photo sharing tool. “We really listened to what our users wanted, both qualitatively listening to the words they say, and quantitatively looking at behaviour that they take,” he said.
- If you decide to start a business, make sure you’re starting something impactful. “A lot of companies I see are operating on small problems, and that’s fine if you want to be an entrepreneur, but the most interesting things operate on a fundamental level.”