Patience Through Failure

By editor on January 28, 2018 — 2 mins read

It was product, marketing, operations. I had an amorphous, fucked up, role for a while. The first year was really bad. I didn’t get anything done. I didn’t do that well. It culminated in November of 2008, I remember this so vividly. I was in Thailand for a wedding, and we had just launched Beacon, which was our first attempt at the advertising platform. It was a huge disaster.

FTC, State Attorney General’s suing us. There were news camera teams at 101 University. I remember getting this email from Mark, and it said something to the effect of, “Hey listen, a bunch of guys have come to me to talk about you, and they really don’t trust you.”

It turned out it was from the business side, the non-technical folks. I was like, “Oh shit, I’m going to get fired.”

Fast-forward four or five months after that, Sheryl joins, and she’s like, “Where’s your head at?”

I was listless. It really took the wind out of my sales.

I said “Well, I kind of feel like I screwed this up, so here’s my shot at redemption.” So I pitched this idea and they said, “What do you call this thing?” This algorithmic, SEO type thing?

I just called it, “Growth.” I’ll be the head of growing stuff. And it was a game-changer. I could completely unpack all of my psychological baggage. Fuck it, I’m not listening to anybody anymore. I’m listening to my inner voice. I don’t care what my parents say.

All the most important decisions that have worked out for me — it’s not their fault — my parents represent the safety, societally-driven, outside-in validated choice. Whenever I’ve been the most successful, I did the inside-out validated choice, and I stuck to my guns.

What was great about Facebook was that, as it was growing, I got a lot of the credit. As a result, I was able to reflect an extreme version of being an executive.

I was super apolitical. I was totally by myself. I played no games. Everytime people would come in with a plan, I’d say, “If you can’t do it for half the number of people, I’ll do it.” I kept calling people out left right and center on everything. I was a curmudgeon. I’d see an Audi in the parking lot, I would take pictures of it and email everybody saying, “This is what is going to fucking destroy us.”

I tried to make sure that we never got lost in ourselves, in the success.

Mark would not have gotten lost, but everyone else.

Great companies, you need a couple of these standard-bearers. (17:40)

Posted in: Leadership

Editor's Note

These are Chamath Palihapitiya's words. They are probably some of the best thoughts on VC, business, and life, but were scattered around the Internet. They live now in this archive.