If Zuck Had a Time Machine, Facebook May Have Stayed in Boston

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In an interview with Startup School’s Jessica Livingston this weekend, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg mentioned that had he known what he knows now, he may have kept Facebook in Boston instead of moving out to Silicon Valley. The entire interview can be found here—the part with Zuckerberg starts near the 43-minute mark, and the Boston-specific talk starts around 1:13:30 in the video.

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Livingston asked Zuckerberg if he could recall a story from Facebook’s earliest days that he would do differently, knowing what he knows now.

Zuckerberg’s reply:

“If I were starting now, I’d do it very differently—but I knew nothing back then… 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.

It’s not the only place to be, I think. 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 just would have stayed in Boston, I think.”

Livingston asked him why, to which Zuckerberg answered:

“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 to flip it or—I don’t know. I had a conversation with [Amazon founder Jeff] Bezos about this one time. The average amount time that someone stays in a job in Seattle is almost twice as long as it is out here.

And, I mean, that’s not necessarily good for itself but if you believe that the first year of doing anything, you’re just kind of like learning what the hell you’re doing, and then to do anything really good it takes, like, at least a few years after that—I think there’s this culture out here where people don’t commit to doing things. And there’s nothing wrong with experimentations here—you need to do that before you dive in and decide that you’re going to do something, but I feel like a lot of the companies that have been built outside of Silicon Valley I think seem to be on a longer-term cadence than the ones in Silicon Valley for whatever reason…

It’s definitely an option, I guess, is what I would say. You don’t have to move out here to do this.”

Livingston asked, “But what about all the serendipitous things that happened to you out here?”

“I knew nothing, so I had to be out here. Facebook would not have worked, had I stayed in Boston,” said Zuckerberg, “But I think that now, knowing more of what I know, I think I might have been able to pull it off.”

I certainly don’t want to speak for everyone else involved in the tech scene out here in Boston where I’m located, but I think plenty of people here would agree that things would look a lot different today had Facebook rooted itself in our fair city. Though as Zuckerberg points out, the Facebook we know today may not have become the same Facebook that’s located out west.

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[via TechCrunch]