Silicon Valley A Bit Too “Short-Term Focused” For Facebook CEO

Posted by · November 2, 2011 8:09 pm

In an interview over the weekend, Facebook CEO and cofounder Mark Zuckerberg said that the social media site would not have set up shop in Silicon Valley if he had a chance to do it again.

“If I were starting now, I would do things very differently,” he told Jessica Livingstone during Y Combinator’s Startup School. “If I were starting now, I would have stayed in Boston.”

Zuckerberg’s biggest reason for this new perspective: “[Silicon Valley] is a little short-term focused and that bothers me.” More specifically, he’s been disappointed with the way “people don’t commit to doing things” and has since noticed that “a lot of companies” headquartered elsewhere tend to be “focused on the longer-term.”

His advice: “You don’t have to move out here to do this.”

While most publications focus on the Facebook CEO’s fondness of the East Coast, what seems to be drawing less interest is the reason he gives for being so unattached to Silicon Valley. Although I do not doubt the sincerity of his concerns about the region’s business culture or the legitimacy of his advice to entrepreneurs that feel compelled to take root there, what I find ironic is the basis for his concern—Silicon Valley being “short-term focused.”

After all, isn’t it his company that is likely to be publically owned and traded by this time next year? If Mark Zuckerberg finds short-sightedness so off-putting, I am bewildered by the fact that he’s eagerly preparing to take the plunge into the world of stock price speculation, quarterly reports, and pleasing shareholders at all costs—each of which places short-term gains above longer-term stability.

In other words, welcome to Wall Street, Mr. Zuckerberg.

If Silicon Valley has a reputation for being short-sighted, it likely has to do with its significant contribution to the dot-com bubble. Although the major internet boom and bust of 2000 has long passed, the region is still notorious for attracting tech startups pumped full of venture capital with no long-term, profitable model in mind but instead a plan to go public and make a quick fortune by cashing in on inflated stock.

Rather than question the character of Silicon Valley, however, I can’t help but think that Mr. Zuckerberg isn’t really the exception to the rule that he thinks he is. Instead, he has set a new standard for capitalizing on Silicon Valley’s “short-term” model. After successfully attracting 700 million users to a social media site that he and his buddies started in a Harvard dormitory, the Facebook CEO stands to make a killing when the company begins trading at a $100 billion valuation next year. It’s the Silicon Valley dream.

To put it simply, Zuckerberg’s no non-conformist. He’s the region’s newest poster child.