Face-to-Face with Mark Zuckerberg '02
January 24, 2007
Mark Zuckerberg stopped off at Exeter on his way to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. It is a rare assembly speaker who is as close in age to current Exonians as is Zuckerberg. Just five years ago, after pursuing his interests in math and computer technology at Exeter, Zuckerberg headed off to Harvard. Two years later, he founded Facebook, an internet social networking phenomena that has taken high schools and colleges by storm.
How phenomenal is Facebook? Less than three years old, Zuckerberg said that Facebook already has 16 million users in over a dozen countries and is presently the seventh most trafficked website on earth.
Zuckerberg told stories about Exeter, Harvard and his foray into the world of high-tech business. Throughout his talk, he emphasized the value of open information flow and on finding creative ways around obstacles. "This is how you can achieve revolutionary results," he suggested. Facebook is a dramatic example of such results. It was created by Zuckerberg in response to Harvard student requests for an online directory, which the administration was unable to meet.
He cited further examples of creativity, reminiscing about two Exeter classmates, one a self-taught computer programmer who went on to teach programming to the other. They ended up placing fourth and ninth in the International Algorithm Competition, and one of them garnered other programming prizes as well. Zuckerberg explained, "He was able to be innovative because no one had told him what to do before that."
Zuckerberg also explained why he has turned down offers to buy out Facebook. "It's not because of the amount of money. For me and my colleagues, the most important thing is that we create an open information flow for people. Having media corporations owned by conglomerates is just not an attractive idea to me," he said.
After Assembly, Zuckerberg met in the Latin Study with a group of students. He was peppered with questions about how Facebook would change as more and more of its subscribers graduated from college and joined the work world, if he was influenced by competitors' sites and what kind of growth he predicted for the company. Students were interested in Facebook's corporate structure and marketing strategies and were curious about the corporate campus. One student wondered about the largest number of Facebook "friends" any subscriber has ever had (50,000) and another asked how many Zuckerberg has (300). One enterprising Exonian even inquired, "Is Facebook hiring?"