If you’ve seen the movie “The Social Network” you remember Dustin Moskovitz as the kid from Jurassic Park who did little more than sit in a corner and code. Like most other things in the movie, that wasn’t exactly true. Or– yunno– true at all.
While still close friends with Mark Zuckerberg, Moskovitz has been gone from day to day management of Facebook since 2008. But we spoke with him just before Facebook’s IPO, which was poised to make him the world’s youngest billionaire.
Moskovitz made the surprising move to leave Facebook pre-IPO to co-found Asana, a company that seeks to make communication and collaboration within companies more seamless. He says telling Zuckerberg he was quitting was one of the hardest things he’s ever done.
In this interview he explains that decision, he talks about the importance of founder control, Facebook’s internal struggle early on over selling to Yahoo, what’s wrong with Y-Combinator, and the most galling thing that movie got wrong.
Sarah Lacy: I know that everyone feels like they know the story of the early days of Facebook. Unfortunately, most people are taking that from an award-winning movie that was not entirely accurate.
I know that everyone feels like they know the story of the early days of Facebook. Unfortunately, most people are taking that from an award-winning movie that was not entirely accurate.
I wanted to spend a little time back in the dorm room. How did you and Mark Zuckerberg meet?
This is an interesting story. Mark and I were pseudo-randomly paired together as roommates. Basically, what happened is when you’re a freshman at Harvard, you’re in the freshman dorms. You enter the lottery system to choose your house for the next three years. It’s a big deal.
I ended up just choosing to block with my girlfriend at the time. She had a group of friends that she was blocking with. I think what happened is I was in one blocking group and Mark was in another.
Basically, Billy, one of our roommates that doesn’t often come up in the story, he was rooming with me. Chris Hughes was with Mark. They put us into a four-room suite. That’s basically how we met. I literally met Mark the first day of sophomore year. The rest was just fate.
Sarah Lacy: What did you think of him when you first met him?
What did you think of him when you first met him?
When I first met him. He was definitely an interesting character. He had a ton of energy. It was the first day of school so he was really excited, of course.
One of the things that stands out in my mind, and actually, I think is the way David Kirkpatrick decided to open “The Facebook Effect,” is the story about how he had this giant whiteboard with him, that I think was in his parents’ van and was the very first thing he moved into the suite.
It must have been 4×10 feet or something like that in a very small college suite. We had a hallway connecting our bedrooms. This was the whole hallway.
We hit it off right away. He’s very personable and easy to get along with. Yeah, it started off an exciting year.
Sarah Lacy: In the early days, when you guys first started working on this thing, were you thinking, “As soon as I get out of Harvard, I want to start a company?” Were you on that entrepreneur path?
In the early days, when you guys first started working on this thing, were you thinking, “As soon as I get out of Harvard, I want to start a company?” Were you on that entrepreneur path?
No. I don’t think that would be an accurate way to describe me. I was on the business track in school. I was actually in Econ concentrator at Harvard. I was also involved in a lot of technology. I built some websites in high school.
I helped students with their personal computing issues. I always fantasized of something along the lines of being the business side of a technology company. I don’t think I ever really pictured it as founding a company, being the entrepreneur. That wasn’t really in my mindset. It was much less popular at the time, in general. Was TechCrunch even around in 2004?
Sarah Lacy: 2005.
There you go. A lot less of that community was around. I will say that was definitely the way Mark thought about things. He always had a couple of projects going on the side. Made quite a bit of money in high school, even doing large websites and things like that.
We got along really well. I was always pretty focused on the immediate needs of the site, especially back in the days, expanding public colleges.
Chris and Mark were pontificating about what could be and thinking about other businesses back then. It felt very fluid. We continued to have a really great friendship ever since then.
Sarah Lacy: Every time I’ve talked to you, going back to, I think around the Greylock $500 million valuation deal, you’ve always been a big believer that Facebook would be a big company. Even when other people in the company were, “Jesus, David Sze did us a $500 million valuation. There’s no way in hell he’s ever going to get that money back.”
Every time I’ve talked to you, going back to, I think around the Greylock $500 million valuation deal, you’ve always been a big believer that Facebook would be a big company. Even when other people in the company were, “Jesus, David Sze did us a $500 million valuation. There’s no way in hell he’s ever going to get that money back.”
How far back did that go? Since I’ve know you, you always had a big belief, but there had to be a time you didn’t.
I was always one or two years ahead of everyone else. The first week of Facebook at Harvard was really quite incredible. It was just complete ubiquity, literally on every screen as you walked around. That gave me a lot of confidence and put the big idea in my head.
There’s a passage in “The Facebook Effect” about Mark and I negotiating my compensation. I very distinctly remember saying something along the lines of, “I think if you give me one percent of this company, that would probably end up being well more than enough, but it wouldn’t quite feel fair.” We ended up coming up with something else. I think that speaks to how I was valuing the company at day five.
Sarah Lacy: Then, when you guys decided to move to Palo Alto, not everyone involved with the company did.
Then, when you guys decided to move to Palo Alto, not everyone involved with the company did.
Sarah Lacy: People work very hard to get into Harvard, did you have any trepidation about leaving?
People work very hard to get into Harvard, did you have any trepidation about leaving?
When we left, we actually weren’t permanently leaving. At the very beginning, we were just going for the summer. Then, I think maybe the first week or two we were out there, we realized it was going to take longer than that.
It would be impossible to run the company while we were also going to school. I don’t know how we thought that was ever going to work.
We managed to do it for three or four months. We thought it can’t get any harder than that.
Sarah Lacy: When you got here, you were just bitten by it. Is that right?
When you got here, you were just bitten by it. Is that right?
Yeah. We were caught in a wave of momentum, to say the least. The site was just growing so fast. We honestly weren’t even thinking quite that far ahead. It was more like, how do we keep things running? How do we prevent the competitor from overrunning us?
Really, especially for the first 12 months of the site’s existence, how do we make it not go down? It was just all scaling.
Sarah Lacy: It was an interesting time because while you guys had all this heat — you were near Stanford, so you were around people who were consuming it — the Valley, generally, was very bearish on the Web at that point.
It was an interesting time because while you guys had all this heat — you were near Stanford, so you were around people who were consuming it — the Valley, generally, was very bearish on the Web at that point.
There were a lot of people who were still in this Friendster overhang, and MySpace has already won that. What did you encounter being in Silicon Valley and trying to build a social media company in those early days?
I may have been to a large part insulated from that kind of attitude. I was really focused on the product and focused on building. I didn’t get out of the house much.
TechCrunch wasn’t around. I wasn’t seeing all the bad things they might have been saying about us. There was definitely some pessimism and some people who believed. The people closest to users of the site really got it. It was hard to ignore the depth to which people were engaging with the app. I think that ultimately made believers out of people including Peter Thiel and later David Sze.
Sarah Lacy: What do you think was the influence of people like Peter and David on the company? I think Sean Parker has been talked about a lot. The site read, “A Mark Zuckerberg production” in the early days, and typically the founder gets a lot of credit.
What do you think was the influence of people like Peter and David on the company? I think Sean Parker has been talked about a lot. The site read, “A Mark Zuckerberg production” in the early days, and typically the founder gets a lot of credit.
I think, especially with Sean and in turn with Peter, they just had a big effect on our ability to control the company.
I think if we had gone into fundraising without Sean by our side, we would have taken a radically different looking deal, given up a lot more control, probably would have given up control of the board in the first round, just because we were novice entrepreneurs, and didn’t know better, and didn’t know how to run a company.
Having them on board both gave the confidence to other people that this was a serious company.
They were just enormously founder friendly especially after the experience that Sean had gone through with Napster and Plaxo. He just cared a lot about making sure Facebook stayed in control, especially Mark’s control, but company controlled. Peter was more than happy to feel the same way. That’s how they basically do every deal with Founders Fund now.
For Peter at the board level, one of the things that really sticks out for me is just every single board meeting, he was really emphasizing that we needed to grow the company slower. He always felt like the headcount was going too quickly. I only feel even stronger about that now, especially as we build the Asana. It’s something we talk about all the time.
It’s just really easy when you’re caught up in the fast user growth to just get into this mindset that you need to hire as quickly as possible. There are so many things falling apart. There are so many opportunities you could be trying, and you just got to hire anybody who walks in the door.
Aside from intrinsically meeting, that ends up lowering your quality bar because you just can’t hire well at scale. It also means you end with mission creep, mission dilution, culture dilution, and just a bunch of people that don’t necessarily think about the company the same way the earlier people do.
Now, I think about this all the time. This is the one number advice I give to entrepreneurs if they’re going to be in that type of market. Really hire slowly and carefully. I definitely think we probably hired, at Facebook, much faster than Peter would have wanted us to. If he hadn’t been there, we would have hired way, way faster than that.
Sarah Lacy: That’s interesting. I think that one thing that people always admire about Facebook is this real emphasis on pacing and not being in a rush.
That’s interesting. I think that one thing that people always admire about Facebook is this real emphasis on pacing and not being in a rush.
Facebook started with Harvard, and then other Ivy League colleges, and then colleges, and then high school. This big, walled garden slowly got out to encompass the rest of the web. You guys took a very long time launching Asana. You wrote a lot of back end stuff to run it. You took a lot longer than it needed to.
I think the core guys’ path took a long time. This is this common trend. Is that part of the same thing that was Peter’s advice or was that just what you guys did at Facebook because servers, cost, and expanding college-to-college was such a toll?
It wasn’t even necessarily cost, but definitely just our ability to re-engineer the site and literally rack servers fast enough. I remember there was one time we decided to double the number of servers from 20 to 40.
We were like, “OK, now we’ll be able to expand as fast as we want.” We put the servers and made the site run faster and people just used it more.
We were immediately at the capacity again. We did this, we must have done this two or three times. The school season was starting. All the pre frosh wanted to get on there and they’re using it really heavily. They just, time and again, exceeded our expectations on how much hardware we needed to solve the problem.
Honestly, if AWS had been around, Amazon Web Services, I think we would have done it a lot, lot faster. It was really this two-month delay on making a server order, and getting them physically shipped, and racking them, and configuring them.
Nowadays, with Asana, we’ll do this the day before a press cycle. We’ll add web servers to the tier. We’ll just over-provision, because it’s easy to take them back out when you’re done. It makes it a lot easier to deal with things like that.
Sarah Lacy: How would that have changed Facebook though? Do you think there was something important about that pacing and about that restriction, or it just would have grown faster and everything would have been great?
How would that have changed Facebook though? Do you think there was something important about that pacing and about that restriction, or it just would have grown faster and everything would have been great?
I debate this all the time with people.
Sarah Lacy: Which side do you take?
Which side do you take?
I take the side that it would have just grown faster. There’s a distinct possibility that other people would have noticed sooner, and turned around, decided we’re a threat, and paid attention, and ended up taking three or four years for that to happen. That’s the one thing that I think might have gotten in our way.
I don’t fully buy into the idea that the close community was a secret sauce of it. I think, just compared to the few other social networks at the time, it functioned better and the pages loaded in less than 20 seconds. That was a lot.
Sarah Lacy: You mentioned board control which is obviously something that was really important for Facebook. There was this huge, I think, company defining moment when Yahoo offered Facebook a billion dollars. Tell us about that time of the company.
You mentioned board control which is obviously something that was really important for Facebook. There was this huge, I think, company defining moment when Yahoo offered Facebook a billion dollars. Tell us about that time of the company.
I think that was a valuable lesson for all of us. I think the number one mistake that we made then was of entertaining the idea at all that we’re planning to sell, because we never really wanted to.
We got caught up in this mindset that it’s foolish not to see what’s out there and not to see what the safe route looks like. Then you get part committed in a way. You set expectations with people.
Then the other people who didn’t feel the way that we did got to see what the safe route looked like, and some of them thought about the company in much more conservative ways and a large part of the market was bearish.
It just became this enormous pressure from people. Like I said, I was always thinking a year or two out on how I valued the company. I was, “Billion? Of course we can do better than that,” and everyone else was like, “That’s crazy. We’ll never get there.”
Sarah Lacy: There was not a moment of hesitation of, “Shit that’s a billion dollars. We should take this.” You didn’t have a chalet pass through your head or a sports car?
There was not a moment of hesitation of, “Shit that’s a billion dollars. We should take this.” You didn’t have a chalet pass through your head or a sports car?
For me, and definitely for Mark, it just wasn’t about the money. It was about making that product and making it big. We spent a lot of time thinking about, “Well, can you do that better at Yahoo? What are the advantages of that distribution right?”
It was a little more ambiguous back then. Now it’s very, very clear.
But the track record of fast-growth startups being acquired by companies and then doing something better after that is basically non-existent. It was really about the mission. Would acquisition make us succeed in the mission? No.
Sarah Lacy: What percentage of the management team, do you think agreed with you and Mark?
What percentage of the management team, do you think agreed with you and Mark?
Other than Mark and I? I don’t know if I want to name names, but I’d say 20 percent. Not counting Mark and I, but luckily Mark and I counted a lot.
Maybe we’ll call it 30 percent. It depends who you’re thinking of as in the management team.
Sarah Lacy: What happened to that 70 to 80 percent? Once you guys said no.
What happened to that 70 to 80 percent? Once you guys said no.
Well, to their credit, I think every one of them basically said, “I think you’re making the wrong decision, but this is your company, and we’re going to support you, and now we’re going to build something bigger.”
It definitely made things more stressful because then if you lose, you squandered that, but again, it was about maximizing the big outcome, not guaranteeing the payday.
I hope I don’t eat my words on this later, but to some extent, acquisition is a sign that the company is on a bad trajectory. There are exceptions, I do think there are a lot of good cases where there is just an enormous synergy that makes a lot of sense.
Peter actually talked about PayPal and eBay in this way, and of course he’s right, especially if you have that much overlap on your revenue streams. If the sum of the parts is going to be greater, then go for it, but I do think a lot of the acquisitions that are happening are basically life rafts for teams that have gotten to the end of the run.
It makes sense there, but if the founder thinks that there is still a business to be built, then 9 times out of 10, I’m probably going to support them and keep going.
Let’s talk about you deciding to leave Facebook. You just got done telling us there is no hesitation in turning down a billion dollars because the mission of building Facebook was so important, but you’re not at the company anymore. Was there a point where you felt the mission was accomplished enough? Or did you just get seduced by a new mission?
No, I certainly don’t think the mission is done enough. I do think my part in it had changed. The story of Asana is basically that for the last year and half I was at Facebook, I was working basically 100 percent of my time on internal communication tools.
Part of the precursor to Asana was actually a task manager that I built for Facebook that gained ubiquitous adoption there, and is still the thing that basically runs the company today. For me, the thought process was I got into a place where I believed that building these tools was the most impactful thing I could do for Facebook.
I also believed there were other companies with important missions, and the tools were applicable to more than just Facebook. Finally, I could do better job building them with a team dedicated to that purpose. I was literally one guy with half another engineer helping me.
We were iterating on this tool and it was very specialized at Facebook, so we could cut a lot of corners, didn’t need to scale, but ultimately it was limited and the future request list was just growing out in front of us, and was never actually going to be accomplished with just a few people working on it.
I thought maybe it makes sense for Facebook to go into this product category, and put a real engineering team on it, and productize it, but very quickly decided that didn’t make sense.
Once I got to the end of that sort of reasoning, it basically just became something I needed to do. [My co-founder Justin Rosenstein] and I needed to manifest this vision in the outer world.
Every time somebody asks me, “Why did you leave Facebook?” they often have these ideas built up in their head of maybe there were tensions, or maybe you didn’t like it anymore, and maybe it was a big company. There are a lot of these possible answers, and the only one that I ever give, and then only one I think is true is that I left Facebook to start Asana. That’s what I’m still doing.
Sarah Lacy: How did you tell Mark?
How did you tell Mark?
You know, there is no easy way to get that message across. I just called a one-on-one basically, worked out what I was going to say, asked Annika, his assistant to find some time for me, and then had that difficult conversation.
Sarah Lacy: Were you nervous?
Were you nervous?
Yeah, of course. That was certainly one of the hardest things I’ve ever done.
Sarah Lacy: What did he say?
What did he say?
He was disappointed, but I think he took it really well, and said he was going to support me in the next step.
This was a year ago and I probably said the company was at least twice as big as it was when I left, and now it’s probably three or four times as big even. I’ve only even been to the 1601 California campus twice, and I’ve never even been to the new campus.
To me, Facebook is still this segmented set of buildings on University Ave. That’s how I think about the company.
Sarah Lacy: Is that intentionally?
Is that intentionally?
I’m not avoiding it. I don’t have any other reason to go, I guess. Maybe I’ll go down there for IPO day. It is a little funny because the security team doesn’t know who I am, so I always have to wait at the front.
Sarah Lacy: Let’s talk a little bit more about Asana. You talked about this mission to leave. When you guys left to do Asana…Did people think you were crazy to do this? Did you think you were a little bit crazy? Did you know anything about selling to businesses?
Let’s talk a little bit more about Asana. You talked about this mission to leave. When you guys left to do Asana…Did people think you were crazy to do this? Did you think you were a little bit crazy? Did you know anything about selling to businesses?
Did I know anything about selling to businesses? No, definitely not. Luckily, that’s not what we do at Asana. What we think we’re doing differently, and why we think enterprise can be sexy, is we have a bottoms-up distribution model.
We have a free products teams with less than 30 you can organize in a workspace. It’s a full-featured product, so people get a ton of value out of it, and then we upsell larger teams into premium functionality and larger workspaces.
We think that, basically, the reason enterprise software is so bad is expressly because people have been selling to businesses and not the individuals inside those businesses that actually have to use the product.
CIOs and executives at these companies end up making a decision that’s largely based on a checklist of functionality and making sure they’re spending that part of the budget in the right way. They don’t actually care — not nearly as much as they should — about how effective it is at improving their business, and certainly not about the usability of the product and how it feels.
When you’re trying to distribute the product by getting individuals in the company to use it, you have to care about those things. You have to build a high-quality product that people love to use, that they’re using every day. As a result, our engagement and adoption metrics look a lot more like a consumer app.
From the few bits of information I’ve learned about some of the more classic enterprise apps, you hear some of their retention numbers, and your jaw drops. “Oh, my God! Almost nobody’s using that.” Some of these companies are still making a ton of revenue, because the companies are paying for a lot of licenses to these products, but they go unused.
To us, the only reason enterprise isn’t sexy is entirely about how the product’s been sold in the past. From that light, the fact that we don’t know how to sell to businesses is actually a pro.
Until you have that realization in our book or belief in other people’s books, then you might think we’re crazy to go into that sector, but to us, it’s a really important mission.
Everybody we know that we talked to about the pain we’re trying to solve immediately resonates with it. Regardless of what industry you’re in, or even if you’re not employed, frankly, people really understand the pain of trying to collaborate on a project and keep people on the same page.
When we first started pitching the company, we got the validation that this is an important problem, this is going to be something people care about if we get it right, and felt like we had the product that got it right.
Sarah Lacy: The “getting it right” is really the hard part, because billions have been spent by companies on tools that promise to do these things. You’re going into a market where people are a little bit jaded that anyone’s going to get this right. What is your insight, where you are fundamentally nailing it, where billions and billions of dollars have failed?
The “getting it right” is really the hard part, because billions have been spent by companies on tools that promise to do these things. You’re going into a market where people are a little bit jaded that anyone’s going to get this right. What is your insight, where you are fundamentally nailing it, where billions and billions of dollars have failed?
There’s three key differentiators for Asana. One of them is speed, and we don’t mean the latency to the server and how long it takes us to load pages in the app. There’s just one page to load for Asana, and then you have the app loaded, much more like a desktop app.
Everything you do in the app has been designed to be as frictionless and lightweight as possible, so that the information can be recorded in the system at the rate that you actually think.
Most of the actions you take in Asana are completely non-blocking, not just AJAX, but you do things and the app responds immediately, and in the background, it’s syncing things back with the server. The result of this is, it doesn’t feel like it’s something that’s in your way.
The second differentiator, which is very related to this one is, it’s the thing that people use to organize themselves. With traditional task management software, what you see is all of the individual contributors have something they’re using to keep track of their tasks.
They’ve got a Vim file or an Emacs file. If they’re a developer, they’ve got sticky notes on their monitor, or if they’re like the vast majority of people in the world, they leave things in their email inbox, and when you archive it or reply, then that’s when a task is complete.
There’s a secondary system that the project manager uses — or the product manager — and that’s not the source of truth of the data. They’re going around every week and guilt-tripping people into, “Can you please put this information in the project management system? Can you please put it on the wiki?”
The effect of this is you can never trust the data. It’s not what the person is working on, it’s just the latest copy that has been made, and that really cripples the vast majority of these pieces of software.
The third thing that we think of, is the secret sauce of the product design, is this balance we’ve found between being highly structured and being completely unstructured, that gives you a ton of versatility.
On the one hand, when you look at these apps, on one extreme you have very niche products that implement a very specific methodology, like Agile or Scrum, and perhaps for a specific vertical, a lot of the task managers that are the most popular are specifically for software development.
These work really well for the projects that you want to use in that method and the things that fit into that model, but as soon as you want to break out of it, you’re stuck, you have to go into something else.
People try very hard to not be stuck. I hear stories all the time about people who track tasks and bug trackers, even though a bunch of the fields don’t make sense in things like this. Ultimately, it ends up being really cumbersome.
On the other hand, you have completely unstructured things, which is what most of the world does. They use Google Docs or a master spreadsheet that’s your task list.
These are great because you can implement any process on it, but you’re losing all of the power of having structured data, of having a database, and for being able to search it in smart ways, being able to have different views for, on the one hand, the project team when they’re in their team meeting and the other hand, the individual, and they want to look at the list of the tasks assigned to them.
Asana has found a sweet spot in between these extremes that gives you all of that power without losing the flexibility. When we see companies adopt, they end up using Asana for every part of their business, and for all sorts of things you wouldn’t even think of using task management software for. That makes it much more powerful.
Sarah Lacy: How do you calibrate success at Asana? Because there’s probably a lot of people who think no matter what you do, you’re not going to ever eclipse Facebook?
How do you calibrate success at Asana? Because there’s probably a lot of people who think no matter what you do, you’re not going to ever eclipse Facebook?
DL: Why do I feel like those are two different questions?
I don’t know if I would say it’s calibrating success. We really do think of Asana as having a similarly scoped mission. It doesn’t need to, necessarily, have the reach on a population basis as Facebook does, but I think there’s a plausible argument that it will one day, as the market of knowledge workers expands and takes on more of the economy.
It’s a big business idea. Like I said, it’s a universal pain and it’s something that…There hasn’t been progress in almost two decades, since email, in changing the way that groups communicate, but it’s super, super important. If we can crack that nut, we absolutely think it’s a hundred-billion-dollar business or whatever price you might think Facebook is worth right now.
It does definitely take longer, but hopefully not too long. Like I said, we’re trying to approach this with a very different model, and we’ve even got a lot of aspects of the product that are inherently viral. Frankly, the media works very differently now and can spread our message very quickly, and the companies that are adopting are extremely enthusiastic.
Sarah Lacy: What is your advice for someone who’s in college, who has a good idea for a business, who doesn’t know if they’re onto something or not? Because not everything is going to, obviously, be Facebook. Very, very few things are going to be Facebook.
What is your advice for someone who’s in college, who has a good idea for a business, who doesn’t know if they’re onto something or not? Because not everything is going to, obviously, be Facebook. Very, very few things are going to be Facebook.
How does one know if they should drop out of school and take the risk that you guys did?
How does somebody know if they’re onto something? I almost want to say if you’re unsure, you probably aren’t. At least in Facebook’s case, it was very, very obvious, and I think in Asana’s case, it’s very, very obvious.
I think you have to believe so much in your idea that the alternative is unfathomable, you just have to manifest it. If you’re thinking, “Well, you know, staying in school sounds nice, too,” then you should probably stay in school and maybe a better idea will come along later.
I’ve talked about this before, but I think there are a lot of people who are arriving at the idea, first that they want to be an entrepreneur and that they want to drop out of school, maybe, and then they go looking for the idea, and I think that almost never works out. I think the only reason you should become an entrepreneur is because that’s the only way the idea will come into the world.
Sarah Lacy: What do you think about, Y Combinator now accepts people who’re great people and they’ll figure out the idea later?
What do you think about, Y Combinator now accepts people who’re great people and they’ll figure out the idea later?
Yeah, I think that’s really wrong.
It’s not just bad for that person — they might be wasting some of their time — but I think it’s really bad for the ecosystem, where there’s a lot of really great people. Instead of joining and working on one of the bigger projects like Facebook or Dropbox, or one of these companies that has already proven an idea and an engineer is very clearly leveraged, they’re instead chasing something that doesn’t exist yet.
I think this is irrational in a lot of ways, but especially from a financial perspective, where it’s clear from where we’re sitting now, that the hundredth engineer at Facebook did way better than the vast majority of even really good entrepreneurs in the Valley.
Sarah Lacy: I also want to talk about what you’re doing with philanthropy. You and your fiancé are working on a foundation, and in the past in Silicon Valley, certainly in the late 1990’s, there were a lot of people who made a lot of money, but either didn’t know where to start with philanthropy because it happened to them so quickly and they weren’t born into this society. Family money.
I also want to talk about what you’re doing with philanthropy. You and your fiancé are working on a foundation, and in the past in Silicon Valley, certainly in the late 1990’s, there were a lot of people who made a lot of money, but either didn’t know where to start with philanthropy because it happened to them so quickly and they weren’t born into this society. Family money.
Or, they felt kind of the Warren Buffett thing of, “I’m smarter at managing this money until I’m 90 and it’ll be even bigger, then when I have one foot in the grave, I’ll have more to give you.” How did you think about getting so active in it so early?
I believe poverty is a solvable problem and that it’ll be solved in the very near term. That’s basically the answer to, “Why get started now?”
The answer is basically, if you can find quality ways to apply the capital against the problem, the good it does also compounds. If you actually can get people to a level of sustainability, those communities can thrive. Then you don’t need more money later on to help a larger population of people that have grown up in poverty.
The other is answer is I’m fortunate enough to have a really great partner in Cari that’s able to think about this full-time, and is more than qualified to do it. She’s brilliant, probably smarter than me in a lot of ways. That allows me to focus on Asana while we also learn about this.
Another important of it is just, we basically intend to fully spend the capital, and when you’re thinking about giving away money at that kind of volume, you need to start learning now. It’ll take us a decade just to get to full capacity.
Sarah Lacy: What do you mean you “intend to fully spend the capital?”
What do you mean you “intend to fully spend the capital?”
As in, I don’t intend to amass capital and then leave it to another generation. I expect not to have it by the time we get to the end of our lives.
Sarah Lacy: I don’t know if you remember, but the night that you saw the Facebook movie, I ran into you. You had just seen the movie. I hadn’t seen it yet, but I definitely heard a lot of hand-wringing about it from people at Facebook. You seem much less angsty than a lot of people that I had talked to.
I don’t know if you remember, but the night that you saw the Facebook movie, I ran into you. You had just seen the movie. I hadn’t seen it yet, but I definitely heard a lot of hand-wringing about it from people at Facebook. You seem much less angsty than a lot of people that I had talked to.
It occurred to me that, of everything that was being said about the movie, you were really one of the only people or maybe the only person that actually was there from dorm room through it becoming a real company, right? Other than Mark?
Other than Mark, sure.
Sarah Lacy: You’re outside the company at this point. You don’t necessarily have shareholder pressure to have an image for the company. It occurred to me, you’re probably the most unbiased person who actually was there who could actually say how flawed was this movie.
You’re outside the company at this point. You don’t necessarily have shareholder pressure to have an image for the company. It occurred to me, you’re probably the most unbiased person who actually was there who could actually say how flawed was this movie.
You had a good sense of humor about it at that time. I asked you, “What percentage inaccurate was it? Was it maybe 75 percent inaccurate?” You laughed and you said, “Oh, it’s 95 percent complete bullshit.”
Sarah Lacy: What was the thing where you watched the movie that just galled you the most or you just thought it was unnecessarily inaccurate, other than the fact that you were barely in the movie?
What was the thing where you watched the movie that just galled you the most or you just thought it was unnecessarily inaccurate, other than the fact that you were barely in the movie?
I have a very great answer to that which is, basically, the motivation that gave Mark of showing up this girl who had scorned him. He was presented as this totally unlovable character that was never going to get a girlfriend again in the future, and all of this was about reconciling that in his identity. That was just horribly unfair and horribly inaccurate.
He started dating Priscilla, I think, before we started Facebook. He was in between Facemash and Facebook and they’re going to get married now. A lot of the other aspects of his personality, the way it was portrayed, were derivations of that characteristic.
It just seems really unfair. When you asked me about when I first met Mark, he was personable, he was likable. He cracked jokes all the time. Just the demonization seemed to go beyond the poetic license.