That 23 Year-old Billionaire

March 10, 2008 at 6:28 am Leave a comment

Keynote Interview with Mark Zuckerberg


Yesterday, I went to the highly anticipated keynote featuring the young CEO of FaceBook, Mark Zuckerberg. I was really excited to learn more about him, how he started, what his challenges have been and what the future of FB looks like. I am amazed that he’s my age (well, heck even younger!), yet so successful.

Off the bat, the interviewer, Sarah Lacy (author/journalist, BusinessWeek/Yahoo!), made the presentation more about herself than the man of the hour. It quickly spiraled into a disaster. I won’t go into too much detail (except the fact that she kept cutting Zuckerberg off, embarrassing him with random stories, twirling her hair….) about what really happened, but you can read it at CNET News.

The main theme of the keynote was about Zuckerberg’s mission from the very beginning. FB is all about helping people communicate more efficiently. Connecting with each other is a fundamental thing for all of us. FB is about empathy relationships with everyone and anyone, whether they are friends or strangers. He didn’t wake up one morning and say, “Hey, I want to be a billionaire,” he wanted to make a platform to fundamentally change the way people communicate.

Zuckerberg’s entire business model revolves around this idea. Of course he needs to make money, so he put ad space on FB. The revenue from that and other ventures ties back to figuring out what else he can do to make it easier for the user to share their information with their friends. He mentioned that even the ad space is for the users. They are ads that the users are interested in, not just some random ad pulled from an affiliates list. He sounded sincere and genuine that he simply just want to help people communicate. But maybe I’m naive and bought into this whole “nice” guy persona he’s trying to portray….

The issue of privacy came up (constant news feed of what your friends are doing, cellphones/addresses on your profile), ultimately, he wants to give the people complete control of what they want to share. He believes that the more control he gives to the people, the more they are willing to share. I hadn’t thought about this before, but it’s true. I am willing to put my address on FB if I knew that only a select number of people are going to see it. FB now enables you to do that. You can have so and so know your address, but not that random person you met on FB. Even some of my friends write notes on FB about certain things and only share it with a few people. Zuckerberg is continually working to let users have this grander control of sharing more information.

Near the middle of the interview, Lacy mentioned that Forbes listed him as the youngest billionaire and blatantly asked Zuckerberg, “Do you think $15 billion is worth it?” I was appalled by the question. How can someone answer that? Of course he’s not going to say, “No, I don’t think FB is worth that. It’s all a scam to get more money.” He calmly responded, “I discussed with Microsoft and this is what we came up with.”

Zuckerberg also talked about how he wanted to step into the role of CEO, not just founder. He believes that the CEO sets the tone and goal of the organization. It makes sure the product is focused and helps people keep an eye on the goal. Again, tying it all back to building an efficient system to help people connect.

The presentation was interesting, but it was hard not to focus on Lacy and her style of interviewing. Many people had walked out within 10 minutes of the interview and one guy yelled out “I’ve had enough of this! She’s pathetic!” Aside from the distractions, Zuckerberg had a clear vision of who he is and what FB is about. I admire him for being so young, driven and focused to create a place where people can build relationships with each other…..and he probably can’t wait until he gets that $15 billion.

During all keynotes at SXSWi, there’s a girl named Sunni Brown of Brightspot Information Design who graphically records the presentation. She does this live and captures the content using visual language and iconography. The outcome is awesome and a good way to summarize the main points of the keynote.

So, for Zuckerberg’s, it turned out like this:

Visual Information Design - Mark Zuckerberg Keynote
Click to view larger / Photo Source

UPDATE 04/01: I’ve decided to attach a video to give you an idea of the craziness that went on…


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