Make Your Company Slow and Wise

A friend asked me what I would do if I ran Facebook.

Editor’s Note: This is a series on building better online communities by studying internet history. Join the mailing list and follow me on Twitter for extras!

A friend recently asked me what I would do if I ran Facebook. I didn’t think too long before replying:

“I’d turn it into a non-profit”. 

This intuitively sounded like the right answer - likely because I’d recently read an interview with the CEO of Ghost on Stratechery:

I’ve deliberately structured (Ghost) at every juncture in a way to try and prevent myself from becoming enormously wealthy from it because I feel like the more my interests align with the customer’s interests, the more likely the business is to serve the interests of its users and not just focus on whatever is necessary to raise the next largest round or get the biggest acquisition number. 
— John O’Nolan

The answer behind my answer is this: A company’s legal status is less important to me than how it goes about achieving its mission.

According to Facebook’s Investor Relations FAQs, its mission is “to give people the power to build community and bring the world closer together”.

As CEO I’d look at the mission statement, look at my 2.5 billion monthly active users, look back at my mission statement — then turn to my team:

So…looks like our job here is done!

Content and abuse issues aside, I’ve often wondered how a donation-based business model (a la Wikipedia) from the start would’ve changed Facebook’s trajectory.

Recently, Stewart Brand’s pace-layering theory of society came to mind.

It breaks civilization down into six concentric circles according to how quickly they change, explaining why the public market and social apps might not be a good match:

Basically, communities (culture/governance) are slow and wise — financial markets (commerce) are fast and dumb.

Communities are a place for long-lasting, complex relationships — markets are optimized for quick, commercial transactions.

If community apps are better served by staying private, what does this mean for builders and the types of companies they should be starting? 

It means figuring out alternate business models (looking at you: subscriptions, donations, and crowdfunding).

It means experimenting with different funding structures (like Indie.vcEarnest CapitalTiny Seed, or even venture debt).

Ah yes, it also means embracing the mantra of the slow and the wise:

I’ll never, ever become a billionaire — and that’s okay! ✌️

For more on how I plan to make the app I’m building profitable and sustainable, and more notes like this — subscribe and say hello on Twitter.

I’ll leave you with a treat from the AOL archives — a documentary on the history of Napster: