This morning I had the pleasure of attending a technology forum at BYU, hosting special guests Senator Orrin Hatch and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. The forum brought about 10,000 people out, being open to BYU students as well as the public. The forum was held in simple fashion with two chairs, a coffee table and a table ornament being the only furniture on-stage. Senator Hatch led the discussion, playing host to present Mark (he asked that we call him just Mark) with a series of questions previously submitted on the BYU Facebook page.
The event was awesome. I was very impressed with both Senator Hatch and Mark Zuckerberg. Mark looked much like depicted in the The Social Network and on Saturday Night Live, in his token jeans and hoodie. He had a low key demeanor and general quietness about him. He was polite and eloquent and spoke confidently. I mean, he was no rhetorician, but at the same time he definitely didn't sound like your prototypical computer geek. He humbly let everyone know he was a bit nervous, since this was the first time that he had ever talked to a stadium full of people.
Senator Hatch then began to ask Mark Zuckerberg a number of questions previously submitted by on BYU’s Facebook page. Below are the questions and Mark’s answers. I can't type at lightning speed so I couldn't get it all, so some of the answers are verbatim, some are paraphrasing. They're pretty awesome though. I learned SO much. In my opinion every business major, tech major, sociology major, geography major, art major, open major, don't care major, or facebook major should have taken the opportunity to be there.
Let's put it this way... skipping my CS class to be here might have been the best decision I made all semester. If you missed it, at least you can read about it here :). Note: BYU is also going to post some clips on the BYU Facebook page.
Senator Orrin Hatch - "I want to let you know the main reason I invited you here so that you'd finally accept my friend request." (Ha ha ha)
Sen Hatch - "Facebook is moving towards one billion users, all over the world. It's changed the way we do business, changed the way we interact with one another, changed the way we look at political issues, and changed the ways we date (especially at BYU)."
1. How did Facebook get off the ground?
a. I built it when I was a sophomore at Harvard. Not to build a company, pretty certain that it would never be a company. I wanted the product at Harvard. Within 2-3 weeks 70% of Harvard signed up. Then other universities wanted in...
b. At the end of sophomore year I moved to Silicon Valley with the intention to go back at the end of summer. When things were going well I decided to take a term off, then another term off, and eventually I realized I wasn't going back.
c. You can build a company like this anywhere in the world. If I were doing it again I probably wouldn't choose Silicon Valley.
d. Facebook apps are huge, over a million apps. The "We're Related" app was developed by Family Link here in Provo.
2. How do you handle management in the company?
a. People was the biggest predictor of success.
b. The success of Facebook is all about the team we built. I think in any company that's true.
c. One of the things we focused on in Facebook is keeping it small. Only 2000 employees. Make sure that every person that you add to your company is really great.
Sen Hatch - I'm impressed that you're so successful, worth 13.5 billion dollars.
3. What classes were of most benefit for you? For folks who want to get into the same area as you?
a. "I wasn't in school that long" (crowd applauses)
b. Most people don’t know this, but I was a double major at Harvard: Computer science and Psychology.
c. It's as much psychology and sociology as it is technology.
d. CS Classes have 2 categories
i. Theoretical - very interesting
ii. Practical - awesome. Operating systems and other hardware classes enabled me to build the early system.
4. What advice would you give to budding entrepreneurs?
a. "I think you have to really love and believe in what you're doing. I think that's the most important thing."
b. If you don't, it actually becomes the rational thing to stop when it comes to challenges.
5. Mark to Sen. Hatch - "I started off as an Engineer, but one thing that is new to me is how the government sees technology. What can government do to promote budding engineers?"
a. Stay out of the way. (Applause.) It's my opinion that one reason we have so much technology and innovation is because of the freedom of companies and the internet that we have here in America.
6. Facebook sees third party developers as important. What is Facebook trying to do to help the developer environment?
a. We're trying to set it up so that we're not the only ones building innovative apps using the Facebook service.
b. "A good independent entrepreneurial developer should always be able to do something on their own better than the entire company." (Find your niche!). "We want build a developer’s platform to enable entrepreneurs across the word to build something they want." Biggest industry thus far: gaming.
c. "We don't want to build the apps, we want to enable independent entrepreneurs to do this."
7. The internet is powerful and a great utility. Some people think there could be a dark side out there as well. How do we maximize good?
a. Extremely robust privacy controls. People love sharing, but a lot of our job is to protect these people too. We're really focused on safety, particularly children. "We try to build a safe environment. I think that's going to be key."
Sen Hatch chimes in: "I'm crushed because we didn't win last night. But I am so proud of the basketball team. So proud of Jimmer Fredette".
8. What steps is facebook taking to help protect users from 'bad actors'?
a. Besides the normal privacy controls Facebook is one of the first products that allow people to completely go over https.
b. Use your social connections to provide extra security.
i. Ask you questions only you would know
ii. Show you pictures and ask you to identify friends
9. Using Facebook for education
a. My girlfriend graduated as a teacher, so we've talked about this a lot.
b. Gift to Newark education system (100 million)
c. Senator Hatch - "Remember BYU next time…" Mark: "Sure. Not sure how to answer that." Ha ha ha
Mark - "It really is humbling to be here, and to see such an audience". (Awww)
10. What do you see as the role of social technology in addressing global issues?
a. At Harvard, we always believed something like this would happen, but we never thought it would be us that built the company to do it.
b. The bottom-up effect - It starts with giving people the ability to connect. You now have the ability to stay in touch with people in a much more passive way.
c. The internet gives everyone a voice. People have a way to get things out there that just wasn't there 20 years ago. Check out peace.facebook.com - shows relationships between people and countries that were once troubled. In the long-term this will create more understanding between companies, more empathy.
Time winding down…
Someone shouts "Ask about the church"
Someone else shouts "Ask about Jimmer"
11. What does facebook look for in potential employees, what do byu students need to do to get on Facebook's radar?
a. We look for people that are passionate about something. In a way, it doesn't matter what you're compassionate about.
b. If you're an engineer, did you just go through classes or do you build tools on the side?
c. If you're into management, what types of management opportunities have you created for yourself?
d. We don't want people to join facebook for what it already is. We want people to join facebook because they think it's so broken they want to improve it and help get it somewhere better. People that take initiative to do something, whatever it is they're passionate about.
12. Last question: Are you worried that advertisements take away from Facebook's coolness?
a. Well, everyone wants Facebook for free
b. At the least, ad are a way that let you use the service for free
c. No information is sold - ads are targeted by Facebook based off of the advertiser’s description, not by you giving your information before-hand.
d. On good days, we hope ads are creating valuable, relevant content.
Thank yous… Gift from the students: One sweatshirt for each university in Utah (Weber State, Snow College, UVU, BYU, U of U, USU, etc… there’s like ten). My guess is he won’t wear them because they don't have a zip…