Blog Post

Zuckerberg and Facebook Both Have Growing Pains

Today’s Wall Street Journal devotes 2,400 words to Mark Zuckerberg‘s hiring of former Google exec Sheryl Sandberg as Facebook’s COO, and his attempts to mature into the CEO role at a large company. After reading the article I decided to sum it up in haiku form for our readers.

Growing up is hard
Doing it in public sucks
Facebook needs money

All levity aside, as a young founder Zuckerberg is treading on the worn footsteps of entrepreneurs everywhere. College is one of the best times to start a company because you don’t need to be mature. You have the ability to spend all hours obsessing over your creation, not paying rent and generally avoiding other responsibilities. Bill Gates, Michael Dell, Marc Andreessen, Sergey Brin and Larry Page all began their efforts in or immediately after college.

Zuckerberg is lucky, his collegiate startup has soared. And he now has the unenviable task of growing from a self-absorbed adolescent into a gracious adult in public. Not everyone makes this transition and no one does it without a few awkward moments. He’s also hampered by a point of view that’s unique to entrepreneurs.

Like many entrepreneurs, he’s recognized his flubs and is seeking to address them. Also like a true entrepreneur, he doesn’t spend a lot of time apologizing for his mistakes, but opts to go out and act differently. Those of us in the real world can fault him for that, but that mindset isn’t as much a function of age as it is a hallmark of an entrepreneur. As Zuckerberg matures, he’ll still have that mindset, but he’ll likely hide it a bit better.

14 Responses to “Zuckerberg and Facebook Both Have Growing Pains”

  1. Stacey Higginbotham

    @Social Millionaire, Those apologies seem pretty scripted and forced. My guess is he’s pushing the envelope and doesn’t care all that much when it goes too far. He’ll backtrack because from a business perspective it makes sense, not because he’s sad that some guy’s proposal was ruined because of Beacon. It may not be an admirable trait, but its an attitude that has led plenty of people to success in business.

    @grown, Zuckerberg is an adult, but there’s a wide gulf in maturity ad experience between a 23-year-old and a 43-year-old. Bringing FB to meet the level of its hype is the sort of thing a seasoned manager may have a hard time doing, so watching a 23-year-old attempt it is noteworthy. If he fails, it may be his ability or it may also be his lack of experience. There are plenty of people who blew through a startup or two before figuring it all out.

  2. suzanne

    Do any of you guys know Mark personally? he is a great guy with a good head on his shoulder. i think you people are jealous that you didn’t think of it first.

  3. I Get My Grown Man On

    “How old is Mark Z? Just give him some credit would you guys?”

    Mark is 23 years-old. He is an ADULT. He is not an adolescent. Are people in Silicion Valley really so out of touch with the real world that they can’t recognize this?

    I know people Mark’s age who left home at 16 and went to work so that they could pay their bills and go to college. I know Wall Street whiz kids not much older than Mark who have big responsibilities and even bigger paychecks. There are a lot of people who are in their early 20s who do “adult” things very well without requiring special treatment. Because they are ADULTS.

    So why does everybody seem to think Mark is special because of his age? He was at the right place and the right time and has milked Facebook for all it’s worth. He’s a paper billionaire running a bloated company that has few options as to where it can go in the immediate future – it’s unlikely anybody is going to buy the company for $15 billion and the public markets won’t give Facebook anywhere near a $15 billion valuation.

    It’s finally show and prove time for Zuck. If he fails it won’t be because of his age, it will be because of his lack of ability. Those who don’t see that have some growing up of their own to do.

  4. I personally think he deserves all the traction Facebook receives. He’s a young man who makes mistakes but he really showed the world what a social network should be like. He’s a bit snobbish though and sure Brin/Page were not like that but as time flows he’ll grow up. Maybe it’s going to happen faster than Facebook bubble explodes.

  5. I saw the TV interview (60 mins?) a few weeks ago with Zuckerberg. Although not yet grown-up, he is is growing up. He is learning to play the game… isn’t that part of growing up?

    He’s a 20-something programmer/billionaire presenting himself as a down to earth guy who works side by side with his team. Sure, he doesn’t have all the answers (although did a good job of answering/avoiding some tough questions) but who does?


  6. I don’t mean to sound obnoxious but Michael Dell, Sergey, Larry and Bill Gates are all vastly more successful than young Mark will likely ever be. There’s a BUBBLE in how the market values social networking sites. Facebook has been lucky enough to get swept up in that, and they deserve to be in such company. They also have a lot to prove before I take them too seriously. That little stunt Zuckerburg pulled a few weeks back when he pre-announced a tough 2008 is very instructive. This means that they know things aren’t going to be good this year and are trying to innoculate themselves against mass defections. I think they’re pretty close to being in trouble. Keep your eyes on these guys.

  7. The Sandberg hire was a good move for sure. Mark Z. personally reminds me more of Scott McNealy (Sun co-fouunder) than he does of Page/Brin/Andreesen. I think each of the latter group displayed much more maturity early on in their success than Mark Z. They also weren’t burdened by questions of dishonesty, integrity, and bubblicious investments.

    It’ll be interesting to see this year’s revenue growth given the lofty figure reported by the WSJ. My guess is that most of the $150M in 2007 came from the ad deal guarantees. I therefore expect much more challenging revenue growth ahead.

    Good luck to Facebook…. and go get ’em OM! :-)