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.
I walk. I walk a lot. Everyone seems to have their own style when walking. Mine is mostly a brisk kind of walk with an intense sense of purpose. But style doesn’t matter when it comes to walking – there is an incredible amount of substance in our footsteps.
The virtues of walking are extolled in writings that trace back to Classical Greece. The great physician Hippocrates, presumably an avid walker himself, left us with some profound wisdom on the subject. ‘Walking is a man’s best medicine,’ he said. I suppose the Father of Medicine had not only discovered the curative qualities of walking… but he also had an inkling of the creative power hidden in our steps.
The magic in mentoring happens behind closed doors. The mentor and mentee relationship is a deeply ‘private’ one, where in a discreet one-to-one session, master shares pearls of wisdom with his or her pupil. Personal stories are shared, picked apart, and put back together again. This ritual allows the pupil to extract the fleeting ‘secrets of success’ that are so hard to capture on one’s own. While the actual process of mentoring is shrouded in privacy, the energy created from these special relationships has tangible ‘public’ benefit.
My father often talks about an imaginary film reel. It is the private film of his day, only to be watched at bedtime, for his eyes only. He describes a projector that casts a cinema size screening of his entire day on the wall, showcasing his every action from the moment his eyes open, till his final yawn.
With consumer-based artificial intelligence (AI) applications, like Apple’s Siri and Amazon’s Alexa, robots are starting to feature in our everyday lives. From seemingly simple tasks like checking the weather, to ordering our groceries, AI has rapidly developed in sophistication in the past 36 months.
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.