Your past mistakes have a way of catching up with you – especially on the Internet, where everything is a matter of permanent record. Anyway, that’s probably what the folks at CNN are thinking today, as one of their articles from 2006 goes unexpectedly viral – specifically, the article in which they named Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg as one of their “10 People Who Don’t Matter.”
Here’s the CNN write-up in full:
In entrepreneurship, timing is everything. So we’ll give Zuckerberg credit for launching his online social directory for college students just as the social-networking craze was getting underway. He also built it right, quickly making Facebook one of the most popular social-networking sites on the Net. But there’s also something to be said for knowing when to take the money and run. Last spring, Facebook reportedly turned down a $750 million buyout offer, holding out instead for as much as $2 billion. Bad move. After selling itself to Rupert Murdoch’s Fox for $580 million last year, MySpace is now the Web’s second most popular website. Facebook is growing too – but given that MySpace has quickly grown into the industry’s 80-million-user gorilla, it’s hard to imagine who would pay billions for an also-ran.
Yes, back in 2006, MySpace – which you may recall as an abandoned graveyard full of embarrassing college party photos and band demos – was the unbeatable champion in social media, selling it to Fox was considered a smart move, and Zuckerberg was an also-ran, trying to bite off a bit of MySpace’s success. Also, people still used the phrase “on the Net.”
The article also hilariously predicts that Netflix will be a fad because no-one watches DVDs any more, which makes it all-too-clear that the piece was published before Netflix, Hulu, Yahoo, and (just this week) HBO moved into the streaming-video game that is revolutionizing television and movies. When this article was published, Blockbuster Video was still open. In entertainment-technology terms, it may as well have been Caveman Times.
This goes to show that identifying the best tech talent isn’t easy. Too many people – including some professional recruiters, who we won’t name here – look only at a candidate’s technical qualifications and the companies listed on his or her resume. This works, if you want to hire someone who will only work for you a few months. But here at Dave Partners, we find that qualifications alone aren’t enough to identify the people who can truly succeed in a position. The single best predictor of long-term placement and success is fit: That is, the candidate’s personality and goals, and how well he or she can integrate into the company’s existing culture and vision.
We like to think that, if we had engaged Zuckerberg in the hopes of presenting him to our clients, we wouldn’t have focused on his company’s seemingly secondary position in the market. We would have noticed his creative thinking and his drive to innovate, which took a simple social-networking site through countless re-designs and new features, and which led him to branch out into creating disruptive new platforms for advertising, mobile messaging, and even Internet distribution itself (namely, his radical plan to create Internet access drones). We would have noticed his decisiveness, his analytical skills, and his desire to get out in front of problems before they become catastrophes – the qualities that recently led him to donate $25 million to fight the Ebola crisis, because he feels that government solutions will be too slow. And, hopefully, we would have noticed Zuckerberg’s confidence and drive, and the fact that he was able to turn down a big buy-out because he knew his company would be worth exponentially more once he’d had the chance to execute a few more improvements.
Of course, Zuckerberg is probably relaxing in his Hawaiian mansion right now, and doesn’t care too much about what an 10-year-old listicle has to say. But for the rest of us, it’s a useful reminder that everyone makes mistakes – and that if you’re looking to secure the next Zuckerberg for your team, it might be worthwhile to leave the assessment of talent to the professionals, and not to CNN.