Monday, July 25, 2011

Launching a Big Idea

If you have not seen “The Social Network”, a movie based on Mark Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, and Facebook’s genesis, you really should. It was well done and gives you a real appreciation of Facebook’s crazy startup days  – which imageis potentially one of the biggest business ideas of the last 50 years and has made Mark the youngest billionaire in the history of the world. 

What struck me as a marketer, were some of the attributes of this character which allowed him to launch his big idea.  While his personality and quirkiness are certainly entertaining, the lessons around starting up and launching a big idea are very clear:

  1. A Personal Mission – Mark Zuckerberg seemed possessed to build this product and change the world by opening up the internet.   
  2. Brilliance and Creativity – obviously this guy is smart, but it was creative problem solving and trying new approaches that helped him overcome obstacles.
  3. Reliance on Self – Mark had only a few friends and needed to rely on his gut when more and more interested parties were giving him advice.
  4. Building a Powerful Network – this was both Mark’s strength and weakness.  He knew instinctively which connections were needed to thrive.  The movie’s name is really about the personal network he created.
  5. Branding – the Facebook name and brand were agonized over (and were the source of many lawsuits)
  6. Measured Expansion - a focus on painstakingly and methodically rolling out the business into new colleges and locations.
  7. Obsessing Over the Numbers – obsessive attention to the minute-by-minute updates of people getting on the system
  8. Investing Back Before Cashing In – Mark’s biggest issue with his closest friend and business partner was a disagreement over when to cash in and find advertisers – Mark invested back until the business was much bigger.
  9. Messy – as the story demonstrates, Mark made many enemies and tossed aside personal friendships when they got in the way of progress.  Not all startups should have those types of issues, but the road to startup may be a bumpy one in many ways.  

Mark may be a strange guy, and it is reported that the movie took a bit of creative license making him out to have a loser personality, but his is the story of a successful startup, and does a nice job demonstrating how all the right elements must come together to launch a “big” idea. 

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