What it takes to build Facebook

To continue our series of weekend videos, here is a nice one from Y Combinator in which Mark Zuckerberg talks about early days in Facebook. Highly recommended to watch. For those who don’t have time for a 36-min. piece, here are our favorite lessons-to-learn from the video:

– On motivation: Stay inspired by what you are doing. There will always be skeptics saying that your thing can’t be a business. Just care about what you are doing, and that’ll drive you forward.

– On hiring great people: The only way to determine whether a person you are hiring is really good is to realize if you would want to work for that person.

– On making decisions: Out of a hundred things that you can potentially go do, pick up the one that actually matters.

– More on motivation: In the early days Facebook had a serious competitor called “College Facebook”. Every time the competitor would launch at a new school, the whole Facebook team would literally not leave the house and work until they address the problem. They still have this concept of “lock-down” at the company and many teams do it themselves.

– On founder equity (we couldn’t miss this one!): All founders must be on vesting schedule. Mark heard nothing about vesting at the time when they started the company. They just divided equity, and then his co-founder Eduardo left. “That mistake probably costed me billions of dollars” – says Mark. But even when things like this happen, it’s important to move forward.

Two real-world stories: a good and a bad decision on equity split

This video is definitely worth watching. It’s a case study of two startups and their decisions about equity splits between founders. Two real-world stories with lots of wisdom to learn from them.

In short, the first story is about a 50/50 handshake (the equal split!) the Zipcar founder Robin made with her co-founder – and how much angst and regret it caused her shortly afterwards. “It was the stupidest handshake to make” recalls Robin.

The second story is about Ockam co-founders and their decision to split unequally. The decision was very logical because, for instance, one co-founder had worked for the other one for seven years as a junior before they decided to start a company. It was clear that their contributions to the startup wouldn’t be the same. And they did a great job of evaluating different scenarios of how much they would be involved with the startup (what if one of the founders wouldn’t quit his full-time job to work for the startup and so on) and identified different equity splits for every scenario.

Here are the key lessons to be learnt from this video:

  • if you don’t want equity split issues to ruin your startup deal with them early
  • when you deal with them, keep in mind that a 50/50 split is almost never a good solution
  • it’s better to find out early whether you are compatible with your co-founder. Equity talks are the best time to do that.
  • go through several scenarios of how your startup is likely to evolve. Decide how your equity split will be changing depending on the scenario.