Mark Zuckerberg, in a letter to potential investors, said he founded Facebook Inc. as a social mission, not a company, and would be guided by “the hacker way” rather than just profit.
The letter, which was included in regulatory filings yesterday for Menlo Park, California-based Facebook’s initial public offering, runs more than 2,000 words and outlines Chief Executive Officer Zuckerberg’s philosophy for the company he founded. In it, he explains the goal of making his social network as transformative a communication tool as the printing press or television.
“These days I think more and more people want to use services from companies that believe in something beyond simply maximizing profits,” wrote Zuckerberg, who could be worth as much as $28.4 billion after the IPO.
The missive is reminiscent of one penned by Google Inc. (GOOG) founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin almost eight years ago when they articulated their “Don’t Be Evil” motto. Zuckerberg said Facebook is not driven solely by money. His goal is to make it easier for people to exchange opinions and ideas, which will ultimately improve products, businesses and the economy.
The world is at a “tipping point” because of the ubiquity of Internet connectivity and mobile phones, tools that allow people to easily share information, said Zuckerberg, 27.
“Facebook aspires to build the services that give people the power to share and help them once again transform many of our core institutions and industries,” Zuckerberg said.
Zuckerberg, who wrote the first Facebook code from his dorm at Harvard University about eight years ago, laid out his engineering philosophy. He said the company embraces the “hacker way,” a term he said has been unfairly interpreted negatively by the general public as meaning unlawfully breaking in to computers. Hacking, according to Zuckerberg, means building things quickly and “testing the boundaries of what can be done.”
“Like most things, it can be used for good or bad, but the vast majority of hackers I’ve met tend to be idealistic people who want to have a positive impact on the world,” he said.
For Facebook, this means shipping products quickly, even if you sacrifice some details, he said. At the company’s offices the motto “done is better than perfect” is painted on a wall. He described how the company has “hackathons” every few months to build new prototypes and develop new ideas. New engineers also must go through a “bootcamp” to learn Facebook’s software coding process.
Hacking is an inherently hands-on and active discipline, Zuckerberg said. Instead of debating for days whether a new idea is possible or what the best way to build something is, hackers would rather just prototype something and see what works.
“There’s a hacker mantra that you’ll hear a lot around Facebook offices: ‘Code wins arguments,’” he wrote.
Zuckerberg said Faceboook has five core values: focus on impact, move fast, be bold, be open and build social value.
“Moving fast enables us to build more things and learn faster,” Zuckerberg said. “However, as most companies grow, they slow down too much because they’re more afraid of making mistakes than they are of losing opportunities by moving too slowly. We have a saying: ‘Move fast and break things.’ The idea is that if you never break anything, you’re probably not moving fast enough.”
User Data, Lawsuits
The company last year settled with the Federal Trade Commission and agreed to independent privacy audits for 20 years.
Zuckerberg has also endured legal battles depicted in the movie “The Social Network,” with Eduardo Saverin, a co-founder and Harvard classmate who sued over ownership of the company, and brothers Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, who claimed they came up with the original idea for Facebook.
Zuckerberg described a company culture that is open and meritocratic, with the best ideas winning out and “not the person who is best at lobbying for an idea or the person who manages the most people.”
Even so, Facebook’s regulatory filing outlines how Zuckerberg has ultimate authority. He controls 56.9 percent of shareholder voting power and has final say on board members, acquisitions and sales of assets.
While Zuckerberg said the company wasn’t founded to make money, the initial public offering also will make him a billionaire several times over. Zuckerberg, as the biggest shareholder in Facebook, owns a stake worth up to $28.4 billion, according to the regulatory filings. By comparison, Larry Ellison owns stock worth about $31 billion in Oracle Corp. (ORCL), the software company he founded in 1977.
To contact the editor responsible for this story: Tom Giles at email@example.com