And Zuckerberg seems impressed that Bezos was independent enough to hatch his startup in Seattle — or at least that Bezos thought differently enough to do it someplace other than Silicon Valley.
Those are a few of the takeaways from an interesting on-stage interview of Zuckerberg this weekend at Y Combinator’s Startup School.
It started when he was asked by Y Combinator’s Jessica Livingston to say what he would do differently if he were starting over (other than avoiding the mistake of originally registering the company as a Florida LLC).
The exchange starts around the 1 hour, 14 minute mark in this video, but here’s an edited transcript.
Zuckerberg: If I were starting now, I would do it very differently. But I knew nothing back then. You get this feeling when you’re out here that you 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 so that you’re not structured as an LLC in Florida. You can rent data center space, all this stuff.
It’s not the only place to be. 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.
But honestly, if I were starting now, I would have stayed in Boston, I think.
Livingston: Really? Why?
Zuckerberg: There are aspects of the culture out here where I think it still is a little bit short-term focused in a way that bothers me. Whether it’s people who want to start companies to start a company not knowing what they want to do, or to flip it … I don’t know.
I had a conversation with Bezos about this one time. The average amount of time that someone stays in a job in Seattle is almost twice as long as it is out here. That’s not necessarily good for itself. But the first year of doing anything you’re just learning what the hell you’re doing. And then to do anything really good it takes at least a few years after that.
I think there’s this culture out here where people don’t commit to doing things. There’s nothing wrong with experimentation. You need to do that before you dive in and decide that you’re going to do something. A lot of the companies that have been built outside of Silicon Valley seem to be on a longer-term cadence than the ones in Silicon Valley, for whatever reason.
Livingston: So you would have stayed in Boston?
Zuckerberg: I don’t know, maybe. I like New York, too.
Livingston: The reporters in Boston will love that.
Zuckerberg: I’m not sure, I haven’t run that experiment, but I think it’s definitely an option. You don’t have to move out here to do this.
Livingston: But what about all the serendipitous things that happened to you out here?
Zuckerberg Oh, no, I knew nothing. So I had to be out here. Facebook would not have worked if I’d stayed in Boston. But I think that now, knowing more of what I know, I might have been able to pull it off. …
I just think there’s such an advantage to doing things differently than other people are doing. … You could fail miserably, because often there’s a reason why no one else is doing it, but that’s how you really win. If you’re doing something that everyone else is doing (but) a little bit better then how much can you win or change the world doing that?
Thanks to TechCrunch for originally pointing to the Y Combinator video.