A lesson on how to build one of the most influential companies of all time

Strong determination to reshape reality and huge desire to succeed, are the most common characteristics of all time business titans. These similarities are also deeply related to the construction of America as a global superpower, a process that initiated in the early twentieth century with the transformation of the country from an agricultural based economy to an industrialized nation. This shift happened again some decades after the introduction of the first computers, when important sources of income of our economy changed again from the industry to the information business. Putting global knowledge a click away made Internet entrepreneurs disrupt almost all commerce practices leading to the born of a new class of business titans: the tech-billionaires. One of the best examples is Mark Zuckerberg. According to Forbes, the fortune of the founder of Facebook in 2016 is $44.6 billion dollars, which makes him the number 4 billionaire in the U.S. and the number 6 worldwide. Let’s have a look at this great story of success.

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Image courtesy of Esther Vargas at Flickr.com

Early life and education

The well known founder, current chairman and CEO of Facebook, was born in White Plains, New York on May 14, 1984, being one of the youngest billionaires in history. Born in a well educated family, Mark demonstrated an interest in computers at an early age, which was enthusiastically supported by his parents. His father Edward, dentist, taught Mark the essentials of Atari BASIC Programming, which was enough for Mark to create a messenger called “ZuckNet” at the age of 12. Seeing the talent of his son, Mr. Zuckerberg hired David Newman, a computer tutor who gave Mark a more specific training on the programming specific tools. While still at high school, mark created a media player called Synapse, software that based on the listener’s interest, suggests particular songs. Zuckerberg and his co-worker Adam D’Angelo decided to release the software freely, and after getting an important number of downloads, Microsoft and AOL got interested. However, Mark discarded the offer and their invitation to cooperate on those companies, since his real project was to continue their education at Harvard University, after graduating in 2002.

The history of Facebook

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Image courtesy of Alessio Jacona at Flickr.com

Mark´s ability on computers made him famous on campus very quickly. By 2003 Zuckerberg had developed CourseMatch and FaceMash. The first program helped university students decide among subjects from a list of courses from other users. FaceMash selected two pictures of two female students from the university database and asked “who was hotter?”, with an option for voting. Although the programs became very popular, both were shut down because FaceMash was considered inappropriate by the university. After his partial success on FaceMash, Zuckerberg and his co-workers created a network for Harvard students where they were able to connect on line with each other. This website, called “The Facebook”, was launched on June 2004. By the end of 2004, the website reached the amazing number of 1 million users and Zuckerberg decided to drop out of Harvard to dedicate all his time to the project. Zuckerberg moved to Palo Alto in 2005 when many venture capital companies were attracted by the growth of users, at that time still only opened to Ivy League students. Facebook received its first investment of $12.7 million from Accel Partners, and by the end of the same year after opening other colleges and schools, the website increased its users to 5.5 million. From 2005, after many other capital investments and acquisition offers, the number of users has increased exponentially. By 2015, monthly active users of Facebook are more than 2 billion worldwide and the company is valuated at $270 billion market cap.  

Lessons to learn

Education is the base

As we can tell from Mark Zuckerberg’s story, taking a risk basing decisions in knowledge is a solid strategy. Facebook’s owner has developed products since his early years based on education and self confidence.

Think on the long term

Zuckerberg received offers to sell his project but he always refused. The size of his dream of changing the way the world communicates was big enough to reject any immediate payoff. Think about the place you see your company in the near future and plan.

Courage

Mark Zuckerberg’s had in mind to make his project the center of the Internet. In order to do that, he needed to face the giants of the industry, and he did it successfully: Facebook has been able to withstand Google. You need courage to assume risks.   

Your passion is your key

If you want to imitate Mark Zuckerberg’s success, you need to know what are you passionate about and think on the type of business you will stick to. For him, the answer was clear: programming, and so he made all kind of sacrifices for his passion, even dropping out of college. Without passion, Facebook would not even exist.

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