Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg -- Insights For Entrepreneurs

Last Updated Oct 31, 2011 12:15 PM EDT

Facebook Mark Zuckerberg Insights for EntrepreneursOn Saturday, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg gave a rare interview at Y Combinator's Startup School in Palo Alto, California.

On stage at Stanford University, the 27 year-old billionaire offered surprisingly candid advice for entrepreneurs and reflected on Facebook's success and failure.

Thanks to Techcrunch's Leena Rao for excerpting the interview, which you can see in its entirety here. If you're a Facebook fan, an entrepreneur, or even thinking about striking out on your own, check it out.

Here are four tips I found most insightful:

1. The only strategy that's guaranteed to fail is not taking risks. You're not judged by your mistakes.

Zuckerberg: I don't pretend that I had any idea what I was doing. I always felt like we were so close to dying in the first years, and were afraid that Google was about to build our product and we were going to be screwed, and look how long it took for them to build our product. You are going to make a ton of mistakes, you don't get judged by that.

The biggest risk is not taking any risk. In a world that's changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks.

2. Don't start a company just to start a company. Do what you you're passionate about, what you think is awesome.

Zuckerberg: There's this culture in [Silicon Valley] of starting a company before they know what they want to do. You decided you want to start a company, but you don't know what you are passionate about yet ... you need to do stuff you're passionate about. The companies that work are the ones that people really care about and have a vision for the world so do something you like.

I was in denial that we were going to make a company early on. When I was in college, I had a lot of conversations with my friends about the direction the world was going to go to and we cared more about seeing this happen. We built it and we didn't expect it to be a company, we were just building this because we thought it was awesome.

3. Don't sell out for the money. If you want to follow your vision, don't sell the company; things will change.
Zuckerberg: The only reason why it's this big story that everyone knows about us turning down a lot of money is because I messed up the process. It's one of the biggest management mistakes I made through Facebook's whole history. I learned a lot about the team at that time, and ended turning over a lot of that same team. I wasn't in it for the acquisitions, and I wanted people around me who were in it for the long-term, he said.

It's not clear that you should turn down offers, but you should take it if it means the company can go in the direction you want it to go on. If you go through some big corporate change, it's just not going to be the same. If we sold to Yahoo, they would have done something different. If you want to continue your vision of the company, then don't sell because there's inevitably going to be some change.

4. Silicon Valley is too short term focused.
Zuckerberg: If I were starting now I would do things very differently. I didn't know anything. In Silicon Valley, you get this feeling that you have to be out here. But it's not the only place to be. If I were starting now, I would have stayed in Boston. [Silicon Valley] is a little short-term focused and that bothers me.

There's a culture out here where people don't commit to doing things. I feel like a lot of companies built outside of Silicon Valley seem to be focused on the longer-term.

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