The Facebook story could only have been written in America.
Facebook was founded in 2004 by Mark Zuckerberg and a few of his college roommates during their first year at Harvard. Zuckerberg was just 20 when the company was founded and the average age of the group even younger.
Zuckerberg is the son of a dentist and was brought up in New Jersey. The early funding came from the wealthy Brazilian family of Eduardo Saverin, one of the co-founders.
After just a few months of working on Facebook, Zuckerberg left Harvard and moved the company to Palo Alto in Silicon Valley.
At the same time Sean Parker, a well-known serial entrepreneur in the Valley, became an early mentor to Zuckerberg. Soon after, the company received its first investment from Paypal co-founder, Peter Thiel, and LinkedIn founder, Reid Hoffman.
In 2005, Accel became the first VC firm to invest in Facebook when they put in $12m at a $100m valuation. This was despite the company having just 10 employees and almost no revenues.
In 2007, Microsoft invested $240m in Facebook, valuing the company at $15bn, thus providing Zuckerberg and his growing team the real firepower they needed to accelerate growth and compete with their larger rivals. At this time, Facebook still only had 300 people and revenues of around $100m.
In 2008, Sheryl Sandberg joined Facebook as their Chief Operating Officer. Sandberg was brought on to provide more operational experience to the team, having previously been the SVP of Sales and Operations at Google and one of their most highly regarded employees.
You fast-forward to today and Facebook is in the process of the largest technology IPO in history. Their valuation is over $100bn and Zuckerberg, at the age of 28, still own 20% of the business he founded and over which he retains complete control. The company has nearly 1 billion users, representing 15% of the world’s population, extending its influence into pretty much every corner of the world.
This is the most extraordinary entrepreneurial story of our times. It’s also a story that could only have been written in America.
Where else could you have a team of young bright kids setting up a business with such bold ambitions from their college dormroom? Where else could you have those same kids with the courage and conviction to leave college, move half way across the country and set-up their business for real in Silicon Valley?
Where else would you have found world-class entrepreneurs prepared to back the business from such an early stage? Where else could you find a VC firm prepared to invest millions into the business when it was barely a year old and had just 8 employees? Where else would you find a large corporate company to invest hundreds of millions of dollars into a young upstart that could be considered a competitive threat? Where else could you have a founder and a company emboldened to focus on their huge vision rather than the financial performance of the business?
Where else would you find a seasoned and experienced executive leave her well-paid and successful job at Google, the leading tech business of its generation, to join a disorganized start-up? Where else would you have found such a long list of proven entrepreneurs willing to support and mentor Zuckerberg and his young team through every step of the journey? Where else could Facebook have had access to so much talent, and also the ability to move people in and out of the business when they needed to, thus ensuring they had the right people in the right places at the right times? Where else could you have built a culture that was prepared to work as hard as necessary to keep up with their extraordinary growth and outpace their rivals at every turn?
And lastly, where else could you have an IPO that sells the growth story of a business to such an extent that it is valued at $100bn despite only having $4bn in revenues?
Facebook is a product of the amazing US eco-system that supports and propels entrepreneurs on their daring journeys. This eco-system has a major impact on both the number and the size of entrepreneurial success stories within the US and is a majpr driver of their economy. This is especially true of the tech eco-system that is so concentrated within the Valley.
Other countries and regions should be inspired by the Facebook IPO and do everything they can to build strong eco-systems of their own.