Facebook Should Have Stayed in Boston, and Other Quotable Moments from Y Combinator’s Startup School

10/31/11Follow @wroush

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taken the Internet in a different direction. You would have enabled a whole bunch of things like gaming and commerce a lot earlier.”

James Lindenbaum admitted that Heroku was initially skeptical about the 2010 acquisition offer from Marc Benioff at Salesforce.com. “We had received a lot of acquisition offers, [because] we were one of the only [Platform as a Service] companies that had developer loyalty and scale, so we were kind of desensitized,” Lindenbaum said. “Salesforce.com’s marketing tactics were the exact opposite of ours. We wanted to show, not tell, not hype. But Salesforce.com believed in the cloud long before it was called that, and the more we thought about it, the more we realized why we wanted to do this. Money is great, and we like money, but if we wanted to alter the path of history and change the way software development is done, we had the opportunity to use Salesforce.com’s megaphone to advance our philosophy.”

James Goetz from Sequoia Capital said that the first products from now-legendary Silicon Valley executives like Sandy Lerner and Len Bosack (the founders of Cisco), Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn) and Omar Hamoui (AdMob) were all a little rinky-dink, but that these entrepreneurs persisted. “The common thread is that these were all sketchy misfits, unknowns, who all focused on [solving] personal pain points and were all willing to put something out early and iterate. So rather than become intimidated by all these icons, I hope you walk out of here amped to become an entrepreneur, or at least join a company on your path to becoming an entrepreneur.”

Ashton Kutcher

Ashton Kutcher, currently the co-star of ABC’s “Two and a Half Men,” said he’s worried that there are too many young Mark Zuckerberg wannabes in Silicon Valley. “I see a lot of entrepreneurs who come in and jump from the problem they’re trying to solve to what they’re going to get by solving the problem. They have this idea that ‘The market cap is this and we’re going to make this much money and it’s going to be a billion dollar company,’” the actor said. “I have this red flag that goes up that says, ‘Wow, this guy wants to be Mark Zuckerberg.’ This switch in my head shuts off as I hear this, because they are jumping to the effect. If you want to be a real entrepreneur, you have to be the creator of someone else’s new reality. If you want to be Mark Zuckerberg, the best you are ever going to do is second place, because nobody can be a better Mark Zuckerberg than Mark Zuckerberg.”

Mullenweg confessed that he built Akismet, Automattic’s anti-spam system, in part because he didn’t want his mom to have to spend 10 minutes deleting Viagra and Cialis spam every time she logged on to WordPress. “I convinced her to start a blog, which seems like a good thing, but at the time spam was a huge problem,” Mullenweg said. “I said, I have to fix this spam thing before she starts blogging.”

Pincus said Zynga doesn’t launch a new game until it’s sure that the experience for consumers will be like arriving at a great cocktail party. “We want it to be instantly social the minute you get there, without you doing any work,” Pincus said. “So we use lots of data on the backend to understand how we are doing on socialness.” Consumer’s next chance to test how well Zynga is going on that score will come with the release of CastleVille, a Shrek-inspired game set in a medieval cartoon world. “Every new game we launch is funded like a startup— it’s not funded until we have conviction,” Pincus added.

Zuckerberg said that in almost every area, from hiring to product innovation, Facebook tries to strike a balance between moving too quickly and moving too slowly. “You want to make mistakes evenly on both sides,” he said. “Most companies move too slowly because they are afraid of making mistakes. But at every all-hands at Facebook, I say that the biggest risk is not taking any risk.” Zuckerberg also said that the failed acquisition talks between Facebook and Yahoo back in 2006 were a critical turning point for the company. “I learned a lot about the team, and turned over a lot of the team, after that,” he said. “Selling for hundreds of millions was not what I was in it for. I wanted people who were … Next Page »

Wade Roush is a contributing editor at Xconomy. Follow @wroush

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  • Jerry Jeff

    I keep seeing the word “adorkable”. It must have been coined to describe tech millionaires who make public presentations in tee shirts and ball caps.

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