I absolutely love this video of Zuck talking about Facebook back in 2005. If I had been in that room, I wouldn't have been able to guess that Facebook would become a $180+ billion company.
The best part: Zuck describes Facebook in minute 1 as an "online directory for colleges." Not only does that not like a billion dollar business, but it also sounds like a terrible startup idea.
The lesson: The key nugget is "I launched it in Harvard in early Feb 2004, and within a couple of weeks, 2/3 of the school had signed up". That is an incredibly strong signal that there's a really good initial product/market fit. This is a recurring theme that also permeated Y Combinator's recent Startup School, which talks about the importance of finding product/market fit above all else.
The kicker: I love how, in minute 3:55 Zuck is asked "And where are you taking Facebook?" He responds with "I mean, there doesn't necessarily have to be more."
Indeed... there didn't have to be, but there was. You don't need world domination planning if you can create world domination product/market fit. The rest takes care of itself.
Oh and for contrast -- here's a video of Zuck one (or maybe two) years later, when a) Facebook was up to 50 employees, b) was doing more pageviews than Google and c) had far surpassed Flickr in the number of pics hosted, where he shares some interesting perspectives. (Start a minute 12:50 for the Q&A for the interesting parts, unless you'd like to learn about Facebook's early infrastructure, which he discusses at the beginning)
Here are some related links for anyone thinking about founding a startup:
What an awesome find. I love the keg stands and a grafitti'd office. It is so interesting how limited the scope of the product was, yet how focused he was on product.
I really like this one from the Stanford Entrepreneurial Thought Leader Series, October 2005.
They key things he focused on when the company was 18 months old, had 5 million users, and had just added the photo feature:
I just read this post about how the startup Level Up has raised $41MM but may now be running out of cash, and according to the article is down to half its previous employee count. It got me thinking about a big mistake I see startups make, which is over-extending before finding true product/market fit.
I was well aware of this danger at Socialize, and we still made that mistake. At one point in early 2012, we were up to 16 employees. When we sold to ShareThis, we were down to six. It's not that six employees was too few -- it was exactly the right number and type of employees for the stage of our company -- it's that sixteen was way too many. We didn't absolutely need that many people to build and sell our product, even though we felt at the time that we did. The six employees that ended up forming the core of our company in the year before we sold it were all very key employees and are incredibly productive, and that's what we needed to find product/market fit.
So if a CEO is acutely aware of the issue and still falls into the trap, I can't imagine what the siren call of rapid expansion does to CEOs who aren't watching out for it. But it is possible to get around it: On the opposite side of the spectrum you see companies like instagram that sold for $1 billion with just a dozen employees.
So I've come up with a mental framework to optimize the outcome of a new startup dealing with this issue.
Daniel's Framework For Optimizing Product/Market Fit:
Zachary Burt dropped me a line a few days ago and asked if I'd look at his posting for a cofounder. I said sure, and we worked on it a little bit.
This is normally the kind of thing I'd keep to private correspondence, but Zack told me to put to put it up if I'd like to. Maybe it's useful to learn from -
Here's the original, unedited version -
Headline: Badass technical business-savvy dude looking for fellow programmer and business partner to hack with all day.