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Mark Zuckerberg's Advice to Start-ups

In a rare interview, the Facebook founder advises that a move to Silicon Valley is not necessary.

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Think you need to be in Silicon Valley to get your company off the ground? Mark Zuckerberg suggests it depends on how green you are.

If he could do it over again, the Facebook CEO said he would keep his company—started in his Harvard University dorm room—in Boston.

"If I were starting now, I'd do it very differently—but I knew nothing back then," he said in an interview at Y Combinator’s Startup School. "You get this feeling when you're out here that you kind of have to be in Silicon Valley. There's all these great engineers out here, there's great universities, there's a lot of great VCs, you can get people to help you set up a company well... you can rent data center space—all this stuff."

He added: "It’s not the only place to be, I think…Honestly, if I were starting now, I just would have stayed in Boston."

At the same time, Zuckerberg, now 27, acknowledged that Facebook would not be what it is today if he had not moved West.

"I knew nothing, so I had to be out here. Facebook would not have worked had I stayed in Boston," he said. "If you're a beginner and you don't know anything about this stuff, it's actually an excellent place to be because a lot of the stuff that you wouldn't understand how to do on your own, like I didn't, I could just get help from a lot of other people."

He added: "But I think that now, knowing more of what I know, I think I might have been able to pull it off."

What doesn't Zuckerberg like about Silicon Valley? He referred to a conversation he had with Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos, about how workers in Seattle stay with an employer about twice as long as they do in Silicon Valley."There's a culture out here where people don't commit to doing things,” he said.

Some other thoughts from Zuckerberg:

On Google: Zuckerberg said he was terrified the search giant "was about to build our product. And look how long it took for them," he said with a laugh, referring to Google+.

On Facebook’s early days:"It was not like in the movie, there was no drinking. We all just lived in a house, iterated, kept going. It wasn't until we got our first office in Palo Alto where things became more like a company. We never went into this wanting to build a company." 

On selling a company: "If you go through some big corporate change, it's just not going to be the same," he said, referring to the rejected Yahoo bid in 2006. "If we sold to Yahoo, they would have done something different, if you want to continue your vision of the company, then don't sell because there's inevitably going to be some change." 

(To see the whole interview, click here. The part with Zuckerberg starts near the 43-minute mark.)

Last updated: Nov 1, 2011

COURTNEY RUBIN

Inc. contributing editor Courtney Rubin was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.




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