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Be Greedy; Be Patient

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“People need to be more greedy and more patient” –
Roelof Botha

Some interesting words from Roelof Botha, a partner at Sequoia Capital

Be more greedy.  Greed has a pejorative connotation.  Here’s the dictionary definition of greed: An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.

But what if everyone stopped thinking, dreaming, inventing, producing, and creating when they had enough to satisfy a basic level of subsistence living?  Who would be around to invent the steam engine that ignited the industrial revolution, invent radio that gave us global communication, or invent the airplane that gave us domestic and international transportation in a matter of hours?  What if Bill Gates was satisfied just being a computer programmer in his basement?  What if Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak were satisfied with computers as a hobby among friends and never created a company called Apple?  Why should any company not be satisfied with just “breaking even”?  If you can pass your high school or college courses with a grade of C or D, then why put in the extra effort to get an A?  Do you really need an A to pass that course?  Perhaps in going after that A you are showing … “An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs…”  In general, why do more when you can get away with doing less?

Let’s look at the definition of greed again

An excessive desire to acquire or possess more than what one needs or deserves, especially with respect to material wealth.

Then we should all be greedy.  Let’s call it ambition, or vision, or as Jobs might say, be greedy enough to put a dent in the universe.

If someone’s greed (read: desire, vision, ambition) creates value for someone else, or society in general, then the more greed the better.  What’s at the opposite end of greed?  Mediocrity?  Complacency?  If we had more of this, would that be better?  What about average?  Is average, “good enough”?  Do you marry an average person and make them your wife of husband?  Average products for average people is exactly what Steve Jobs never wanted to produce. Why?  We could do with less.

When I heard Botha’s quote I was reminded of the club scene between Mark Zuckerberg and Sean Parker in the movie The Social Network.  The YouTube clip is below and the dialog important to this posting is below…

SEAN takes a sip of his drink…
SEAN (simply)
A Stanford MBA named Roy Raymond wants to buy his wife some lingerie but he’s too embarrassed to shop for it in a department store. He comes up with an idea for a high end place that doesn’t make you feel like a pervert. He gets a $40,000 bank loan and borrows another forty-thousand from his in-laws, opens a store and calls it Victoria’s Secret. He makes a half-million dollars his first year.
He starts a catalogue, opens three more stores and after five years, he sells the company to Leslie Wexner and The Limited for four million dollars. Happy ending, right? Except two years later the company’s worth 500 million dollars and Roy Raymond jumps off the Golden Gate Bridge.
Poor guy just wanted to buy his wife a pair of thigh-highs, you know?
Was that a parable?

Yes, the meaning of the parable is this – don’t sell out too early.  Be greedy.

The Take

Last week the Facebook IPO generated 100 billion dollars.  Facebook has 800 million active users.  What would have happened if Zuckerberg was not greedy and not patient and sold Facebook when the next growth increment was “A hundred schools by the end of the summer.”  If you have a good thing, be patient, be greedy – that’s the message of Sean Parker to Zuckerberg and the message from venture capitalist Roelof Botha.

Here is the constraint on greed.. This comes from Jim Collins book:  “Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck–Why Some Thrive Despite Them All”

So, why do people follow them? Because of a deeply attractive form of ambition: [they].. channel their ego and intensity into something larger and more enduring than themselves. They’re ambitious, to be sure, but for a purpose beyond themselves, be it building a great company, changing the world, or achieving some great object that’s ultimately not about them.

Who would say that Zuckerberg’s greed (read: ambition/vision/commitment) and patience did not result in a good thing (Facebook) for the people on this planet in general?  And it made him wealthy far beyond his needs in the process.  So what’s the problem?

As long as greed is not about personal self-aggrandizement, and is about ambition, intensity, vision, and commitment that ends up generating value for other people then the more greed – and the more patience for greed people have – the better for all of us.

See more

An interview with Roelof Botha – here

The club scene from the Social Network …

Who can forget the famous quote from Gordon Gekko from the movie, Wall Street

The point is, ladies and gentleman, that greed, for lack of a better word, is good. Greed is right, greed works. Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit. Greed, in all of its forms; greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge has marked the upward surge of mankind. And greed, you mark my words, will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA. Thank you very much.

Adam Smith from the 1776 book “An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations”

…every individual necessarily labours to render the annual revenue of the society as great as he can. He generally, indeed, neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. By preferring the support of domestic to that of foreign industry, he intends only his own security; and by directing that industry in such a manner as its produce may be of the greatest value, he intends only his own gain, and he is in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention. Nor is it always the worse for the society that it was no part of it. By pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it. I have never known much good done by those who affected to trade for the public good.

Read more about the “Invisible Hand” here

Written by frrl

May 29, 2012 at 2:59 am

Movie Review: The Social Network

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I was looking forward to seeing the movie The Social Network.  I read Accidental Billionaires: The founding of Facebook A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius, and Betrayal by Ben Mezrich.  I have seen Mark Zuckerberg in various interviews and have read his blog.  I was halfway through reading The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That is Connecting the World by David Kirkpatrick when I saw The Social Network.

I was entertained and disappointed by the movie.  I realize that Hollywood makes movies to make money and to make money the movie has to have those elements that make it compelling, entertaining, provocative, and everything else that sells movie tickets – no matter how much those aspects depart from the truth or the real history of Facebook.

The nature of movies

So, there is the truth and there is the story telling.  There is the fact and the fiction.  Ben Mezrich says that the story of Facebook in his book is a construction from hundreds of interviews with people close to the story of the founding of Facebook.  The Social Network is based on the book.  Neither the Ben Mezrick book nor the movie was made with any consultation from Mark Zuckerberg.  Sean Parker, short time  president of Facebook said the movie was a work of fiction. (more)

Picking and choosing

However, The Facebook Effect written by David Kirkpatrick was done from the inside.  David Kirkpatrick is a respected journalist who writes for Fortune magazine.  Mark Zuckerberg invited Kirkpatrick to write the story of Facebook.  Kirkpatrick travelled with Zuckerberg and was given inside access to the employees of Facebook.  So, if there is access to any semblance to the truth about the story of Facebook it’s in The Facebook Effect.

The running time of a typical movie is 2 hours.  So, the story of Facebook told in movie form had to be dissected and compressed to fill this 2 hr duration.  What do you pick and choose?  What part of the story do you tell and what do you leave out?  This is the challenge of any movie based on historical events.

Books generally so not have this challenge.  Books can be as long as they need to be to tell the story.  The “running time” of The Facebook Effect is 15 hours – if you listen to the unabridged audio version.  (There will soon be a movie of Atlas Shrugged.  The audio book running time of this work is 55 hours.  What sort of devestation will the movie industry make of this book?)

What you are missing

The Social Network picks and chooses the worst of Zuckerberg and perhaps Sean Parker and leaves out some of the entrepreneurial genius of both Zuckerberg and Parker that made Facebook a successful company in the real world.

The significant role of Sean Parker

What I told Mark was that I would try to be for him what no one had been for me – a person who sort of shepherds his rear and puts him in a position of power so he’d have the opportunity to make his own mistakes and learn from them.  – Sean Parker

It was really beneficial for us that Sean had been a founder who had been burned.  We didn’t know anything about how to incorporate a company or take financing, but we had one of the most conservative people figuring it out for us and trying to protect us – Moskovitz

In the Social Network you will not hear about the significant role that Sean Parker (co-founder of Napster and founder of Plaxo) played in the success of Facebook.  Not only did Sean have extensive experience dealing with Venture Capital firms but also ensured that, through the complex negotiations with VC’s, Mark did not lose control of the company.  Sean kept Marks vision on the long view against others trying to persuade Mark to monetize (generate revenue through advertising) the company early or sell it.  Sean’s vision was that Facebook was not a 10 million dollar company, or a 100 million dollar company but a billion dollar company.  With Sean Parker, the young Zuckerberg had an experienced advisor and mentor at his side.  Parker was Facebook’s first President and held a 7% stake in the company. (more on Sean Parker here )

Zuckerbergs judgements on technolgy and product direction

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Written by frrl

March 27, 2011 at 4:01 am

The Technical Architecture Behind Facebook

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There is a lot of different elements behind the success of Facebook.  Of course it’s mostly about vision, timing, the right people, venture capital, good judgements at critical points in the history of Facebook, and so on.  It’s also about the availability of readily available technology and excellent technical architecture and engineering by talented people – Mark Zuckerberg playing a major role in the original programming and technical design of (the) from the beginning.

(the) also benefited from a history of the failure of other social networking systems that preceded  (the)  One of the failures clearly in the mind of the architects, developers, and technical engineers of (the)Facebook was the failure of the social networking system Friendster.  Friendster may have been more successful had it been able to scale properly to meet the demand of the user base.  Friendster did not scale.

(the) was careful to ensure that before another segment of users was invited to register for the service (at the beginning they added schools in a very controlled process) there was sufficient capacity to handle the projected number of new users.

The Scale of Facebook

At the time of this writing there are about 400 million active users Facebook.  Facebook delivers 200 billion page views per month and the service is distributed across 30,000 servers.

So, from a technology perspective, how do you architect such a system?  What is the technology and architecture behind Facebook that can deliver 200 billion pages per month to 400 million active users with good response time?

The success of Open Source

There are many success cases that can be developed from Facebook.  The Open Source community is a clear beneficiary of the success of Facebook.  Facebook is written in open source software.  Enhancements, extensions, and innovations that Facebook made to improve performance and scalability of this open source software has been given back by Facebook to the Open Source Community. 

The Facebook presentation layer is written in PHP – 3 million lines of code.  The database tier is MySQL.  If anything validates the Open Source community its the ability of these open source tools to be able to deliver a high performance massively scalable system like Facebook.

The Technical Architecture behind Facebook

Jeff Rothschild is Vice President of Technology at Facebook.  He gave a presentation to the UC San Diego Center for Networked Systems.  In this webcast Jeff goes into detail about the technology behind Facebook – the architecture, the challenges they faced in building a high performance massively scalable system, how they solved these problems, the innovations and extensions they made to Open Source code (and gave back to the community), and those challenges for the Facebook technology that still exist and for which they are seeking solutions.

Abstract: Facebook has grown into one of the largest sites on the Internet today serving over 200 billion pages per month. The nature of social data makes engineering a site for this level of scale a particularly challenging proposition. In this presentation, I will discuss the aspects of social data that present challenges for scalability and will describe the core architectural components and design principles that Facebook has used to address these challenges. In addition, I will discuss emerging technologies that offer new opportunities for building cost-effective high performance web architectures.

You can find the links to this webcast, and a summary of the technology at the links below

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Written by frrl

March 22, 2011 at 2:38 am

The Accidental Billionaires: The Founding of Facebook A Tale of Sex, Money, Genius and Betrayal

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“The girls were both Asian, pretty, and a little overly made up for a lecture like this.  The tallest of the two had long sable hair pulled back in a high pony tail and was wearing a short skirt and a white shirt open one button too far down the front.  Eduardo could see wisps of her red lace bra wonderfully offset by her tan, smooth skin.  The other girl was in an equally short skirt, with a black leggings combo that showed off some impressively sculpted calves.

Both had bright red lipstick and too much eye shadow, but they were damn cute – and they were smiling and pointing right at him.

Well, at him and Mark.  The taller of the girls leaned forward over the empty seat and whispered in his ear.
“Your friend – isn’t that Mark Zuckerberg?”
Eduardo raised his eyebrows.
“You know Mark?”  There was a first time for everything.
“No, but didn’t he make Facebook?”

Eduardo felt a tingle of excitement move through him, as he felt the warmth of her breath against his ear, as he breathed in her perfume.

“Yeah. I mean, Facebook, it’s both of ours – mine and his.”
“Wow that’s really cool,” the girl said.  “My name is Kelly.  This is Alice.”

Other people in the girls’ row were looking now.  But they didn’t seem angry that the whispers were interrupting their enjoyment of Bill Gates.  Eduardo saw someone pointing, then another kid whisper something to a friend.  Then more pointing – but not at him, at Mark.”

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Written by frrl

January 2, 2010 at 10:55 pm

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