Facebook @ 15: Takeaways For Entrepreneurs

In February 2004, Mark Zuckerberg launched a fairly basic site, called TheFacebook.com, which allowed Harvard students to connect. At first, he considered it an ordinary project. But of course, the site would quickly become a growth machine.

Yet there were still many challenges for Zuckerberg. In the early days, he had to fend off fierce rivals, such as Friendster and MySpace. There were also challenges like scaling the infrastructure and dealing with privacy snafus.

Despite all this, Zuckerberg was able to win the war – and build one of the world’s most valuable companies.

So then, what are some of the lessons for entrepreneurs from this amazing journey? Well, let’s take a look:

Ronn Torossian, CEO and Founder of 5WPR:

“Right from the start, Facebook did an outstanding job of hiring the right talent. As an entrepreneur, you have to trust other people to work on other components of your business—as much as you want to, you can’t do everything yourself. Take Sheryl Sandberg for example. When Zuckerberg hired Sandberg, he gave himself the room to spend more time on his true strengths – improving the Facebook platform – while she ran more of the business operations like PR, expansions, communications, etc. A company is only as good as the people who work there, and Zuckerberg has always invested in hiring the right people to continuously grow and keep things fresh. Zuckerberg’s focus has always been on two things: having a crystal clear trajectory for the company and a great team driving it in this direction.”

Magnus Larsson, CEO of Rebtel:

“It’s impressive to see how Facebook has continued to bet on its original product, platform and vision, while adding value for the company and users. Mark wrote in a letter to his investors before becoming listed, ‘Facebook is created to make the world more open and connected. Facebook aspires to build the services that give people the power to share.’ Staying true to that vision led to two of the best acquisitions ever: Instagram and WhatsApp. Consumer tech companies should always keep an eye on the new kids on the block to avoid becoming antiquated. If someone else beats you to it, be open to partnerships or other ways of working together. Not every newcomer has to be a threat.”

From Ryan Kelly, the VP of Marketing at Nanigans:

“Facebook has truly turned into an advertising giant over the last fifteen years. What has enabled this is threefold: 1) the platform’s massive reach 2) the identity data within it and 3) the enormous internal investment around Facebook’s ad tech stack. While the first two points get most of the attention, what really enabled them to stand out from the rest of the players in the space was, and still is #3: the innovations around ad technology.

“2012/2013 was really the inflection point. ‘The Social Graph’ was unleashed in 2012 giving Facebook’s advertisers access to user behavioral data like never before. A year later Facebook introduced their conversion pixel, website custom audience pixel, lookalike audience tool, and video ads. This is where many advertisers went from trying to get ‘likes’ or ‘clicks’ to actually acquiring revenue generating customers.

“While it’s true that Facebook invented the news feed as we know it and has had many innovations on the consumer facing side of its business, the ad platform is the main reason the company is where it is today. And while the ad blueprint and tech behind Facebook’s success is often times imitated by their social competitors, it’s never been truly duplicated.”

Gil Sommer, Head of Product at Connatix:

“Facebook has shown us that listening to users, understanding their needs and adjusting products to their liking is a winning formula. Just look at Stories— this format was not invented by Facebook. Actually, they initially thought Stories wasn’t a great product and tried to provide alternatives. But their users were not happy, and Facebook listened. They understood that what makes the Stories format great is its immersive nature, and the freshness of the content. Facebook decided to react in a smart way. First, they adapted the format. Nonetheless, they still kept focus on their core competency (massive scale of visual UGC). This combination is one of the most successful stories — pun intended — in Facebook’s history and clearly they were able to outperform the original format. Facebook has shown us that adjusting course to your user’s needs is always a solid strategy. Keeping your core competencies in the process makes it a winning one.”

Robert Levenhagen, CEO and Co-Founder of InfluencerDB:

“From the relatively early stages, Facebook benefited a great deal from the environment of business and end-user applications around their platform. Their open API policies and growth attracted thousands and thousands of partners making their platform and products ever more user friendly. The downside of this open approach and hypergrowth showed when bad players took advantage of the opportunities and turned the good intention into bad results for the users and the general public. But Facebook has taken a lot of steps to right this wrong ever since.”

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