For Facebook’s (s fb) Mark Zuckerberg, these are tough times. With the IPO now in the distance, everyone wants to talk about the tanking stock, problems with mobile ads, or difficulty growing up. But could this be a blessing in disguise for the 28-year-old founder?
“Personally I’d rather be underestimated, because it gives us good latitude to go out and take some big bets,” Zuckerberg said Tuesday at San Francisco’s TechCrunch Disrupt. “Because it allows us to do things that excite and amaze people.”
In his first public appearance since Facebook’s May IPO, Zuckerberg took questions from Crunchfund’s Michael Arrington that spanned a wealth of topics the newly-public company has struggled with.
“It’s obviously disappointing,” he said of the stock nosedive, noting that it actually poses the biggest challenge for recruiting, since he’s learned that sometimes good employees also like to make a lot of money, even if it’s not why he started the company.
“From the beginning of building Facebook, one of the core things I’ve learned is that you need to build a great team. And to build a great time, you need the best people,” he said. “We need a business model that incentivizes them to want to work with us.”
But Zuckerberg said the company is “mission-driven” and ready for the challenges the tech market throws at it:
“Facebook has not been an uncontroversial company in the past,” he said. “It’s not the first up and down we’ve ever had.”
Along with every other entrepreneur at Disrupt, Zuckerberg wanted to talk about mobile: What mobile is doing for Facebook, where the company needs to be on mobile, and how it’s changing who uses the service. He noted that since the company recently updated its notoriously terrible iOS app to make it faster and more user-friendly, they’ve seen “double the amount” of daily consumption in the newsfeed.
“The biggest mistake we made as a company was betting too much on HTML5 over iOS, because it just wasn’t there,” Zuckerberg said, although he said he still likes HTML5 for certain cases, and that their mobile web version still sees more traffic than iOS. “Good enough is not good enough.”
And for the founder himself, does he still code for the site?
“I code for fun on the side,” he said. When asked if his code ever breaks, he laughed and responded that “Everything I do breaks. But we fix it quickly.”
Zuckerberg strongly denied that Facebook is building a phone, and said that while the press likes to ponder a Facebook phone because “it’s such a juicy thing,” he said “it’s so clearly the wrong strategy for us.”
So what does Facebook look like down the line?
“I just want to build big stuff,” he said. “The legacy of this company should be that we’ve connected everyone in the world, and everyone can share all the stuff they want. And that’s a lot.”