Taken straight from Facebook’s business plan, the above mission statement represents an emerging mantra held by today's technology entrepreneurs. Social purpose is becoming increasingly intertwined with a business's identity. It seems that this new generation of entrepreneurs has evolved - what has emerged from this evolution is a breed of ultra-bright, globally minded, new-generation entrepreneurs that are driven by far more than profit generation. Their inspiration is in catalysing social change, being at the forefront of technological advancement, and disrupting existing industries.
Nobody personifies this new mantra better than Mark Zuckerberg, the scarily bright founder and CEO of Facebook who is now the world's second youngest self-made billionaire. There is no mention of profit margins and bottom lines in his mission and value statements. Many internet entrepreneurs have a similar mindset. For example, Snapchat CEO Evan Spiegel’s refusal to sell his company to Facebook for a +£1 billion fee is a decision which Zuckerberg could relate to more than most. His reasoning behind the decision?
This attitude resonates with scores of visionary, globally-minded entrepreneurs who have emerged in the past decade. The recent credit crisis and the perceived failures of the corporate world have only fueled this renaissance. Here are some snippets of wisdom we can take away from the Facebook CEO:
Generate and Execute Ideas
Mark Zuckerberg has a highly sought after mix of creativity and tenacity. Often creatives can hit peaks and troughs of motivation and work ethic. When you discover somebody with both - there is an opportunity to harness this dichotomy to create great products, and ultimately, great companies.
Facemash - an addictive website that enabled users to compare students' faces for their attractiveness - was a raving (even if inappropriate) success. He is not afraid to break the rules to turn ideas into reality. He has an instinctive psychological understanding and knows how to create services which cater to deep seeded human curiosities.
Zuckerberg caused controversy in his pursuit of rule breaking creativity. He stole the school’s photographic database and uploaded it onto the Facemash system. From a young age, he realised that without taking risks, he wouldn't be able to break new ground and realise his vision of making the world more connected.
He had created something special that surpassed any law broken in the process and was right to ignore the skepticism of people who do not recognise a big idea, but only see a broken rule. The Facemash story is telling on many different levels. On the simplest level, entrepreneurs must realise that the general public often lacks imagination, and they may not see the light until presented with a finished product. Very few people could see that the pirated and roughly-cobbled-together Facemash was the beginning of a huge global phenomenon.
Surround Yourself With Those Who Inspire You
At the turn of the millennia, the music industry was up-ended with the foundation of P2P file sharing network Napster. One of the founders of the revolutionary service, Sean Parker, was a hero of Mark Zuckerberg's and was welcomed into the early Facebook team as an experienced entrepreneur. This was a smart move. Surrounding yourself with inspirational people is vital and will challenge you to be the best you can be.
Parker, who later founded Spotify, was the perfect mentor for the Facebook founder in his early days. It was a symbiotic relationship. Zuckerberg was inspired by Parker's irreverent, pirate instincts. And Parker could relate to Mark's steely determination and relentless pursuit of transforming an idea into a minimum viable product.
Parker also benefited greatly from Zuckerberg. The internet entrepreneur received $3.4 billion worth of Facebook shares for his work with the company.
Parker and Zuckerberg represent a different breed of entrepreneur. They start businesses that are intended to cater to global customers and address global issues. They are in this world to enhance connectivity and challenge incumbent businesses. The vehicle through which they choose to drive social change is business.
Despite the vices (stalking, peer pressure - the list goes on) that Facebook has engendered in our society, I would argue it has done far more good by reconnecting isolated families, enabling social movements, and propagating worldwide charitable initiatives. Zuckerberg, like Sean Parker from Napster and Pierre Omidyar from EBay and many icons before him, is in many ways a change-maker in the exoskeleton of a businessman. Here's to the rise of the changemaker.
Dennis Waitley, the American best-selling author, once said 'failure should be our teacher, not our undertaker. Failure is delay, not defeat. It is a temporary detour, not a dead end…' Failure is often misunderstood, a dirty word, only to be whispered in hushed tones. Some of those closest to me have yet to achieve their full potential because of their subconscious fear of the ‘F’ word. In certain cultures, failing is taboo and carries individual and familial shame, like a metaphorical scarlet letter burning on one’s forehead.
In high school, I was a sprinter. Metaphorically that is. I took on way too much. I wanted to make it big, and do it fast. My ambition and enthusiasm for education, sports and extracurricular activities exceeded my output levels, mainly because I was spread too thin. ‘The fruit of patience is very sweet,’ my father repeated reassuringly over breakfast as I gulped down my hot chocolate, but the Urdu proverb didn’t resonate at all with a young man eager to take on the world.
Winston Churchill once wisely said 'it's a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.' He was addressing the nation in a BBC broadcast, speculating on how Russia may or may not respond in the wake of one of the most uncertain times in recent history - World War II. Leaders are often judged by how they manage uncertainty: when the stakes are high, yet our control of the possible outcomes is limited. At times like this, working out probabilities and other forms of statistical analysis are of little use. Great leaders that have triumphed over the beast of uncertainty are often those that have relied on calculated intuition and instinct.
Legend has it that way back in third century Rome, Emperor Claudius II wished for a radical transformation of his army. While his soldiers were loyal and dedicated, he believed that they could give more. He wanted the success of the military to be each soldier's only meaningful purpose in life. Such men were hard to find; although many were passionate and had risked their lives for the Empire, the soldiers had their loved ones and family life outside of the army. The Emperor saw this as a weakness and a distraction, so he took the bold and ruthless step - and forbade marriage altogether.
Nearly everyone has boogied to the 70s disco tune "Kung Fu Fighting". The song topped the US Billboard charts in 1974, selling 11 million singles, yet Carl Douglas, the recording artist who sang and composed it, remains virtually unknown, having never been able to repeat his earlier success. He’s hardly alone. The ‘second album syndrome’, also known as ‘the sophomore slump’, is a common affliction among musicians, athletes, movie directors and entrepreneurs. But why is it so challenging to come back for the second act? What separates the ‘serial winners’ from the ‘one hit wonders’?