From the dorms

Chris Hughes, co-founder of Facebook and my.barackobama.com kicked off Communitech’s 5th annual Entrepreneur Week on Monday. Hughes spoke about his entrepreneurial journey as he addressed a large audience at the University of Waterloo.

A Harvard graduate, Hughes noted that though he has experienced great success in the business field, he has a fairly unconventional background given his current career.

“At Harvard, I didn’t study business or economics or finance; I studied history and literature,” he said.

It was at Harvard that Hughes co-founded Facebook with his roommates Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz. “We wanted to build a product that would change people’s lives. We had no idea what it would become,” said Hughes.

Hughes then described in detail the three factors behind the success of Facebook: letting users control their level of privacy, providing an efficient means of communication and utilizing the power of the crowd, or word-of-mouth, to popularize the site.

Hughes then offered seven steps to success for the current and emerging entrepreneurs:

1) Focus on a product.

Facebook is based on a simple model; the simplicity has continued as Facebook has evolved.

2) Don’t get caught up in the formalities.

Entrepreneurs should not focus all of their attention on formalities like getting high profile individuals on the board of advisors.

3) Iterate and analyze.

Build, launch, tweak. According to Hughes, it is always better to test the waters first and apply changes based on customer feedback.

4) Hire smartly.

Highlighting that employees are the base of a business and that entrepreneurs will have to spend a lot of time with them, Hughes stated, “Hiring is one of the most important things a business can do.”

5) Think long term.

Though the lure for money can be tempting, you should not sell out if you believe in your product. Various companies have offered the Facebook executives millions of dollars to sell, but they refused, which has paid off as the company has continued to experience growth.

6) Be persistent.

Hughes emphasized the importance of focusing on the goal. There are times when things don’t go as expected, and as Hughes explained, “It is very easy to get distracted.”

7) Get lucky.

Though Hughes highlights the importance of raw talent, he doesn’t underplay the role that luck has in the success of a business. Hughes was also quick to point out that “luck didn’t make Facebook, but it certainly helped.”

Entrepreneur Week

  • Featuring lectures and workshops from November 16 – 20

  • Sponsored by Communitech, an industry-led organization driving the growth and success of Waterloo Region’s technology sector, through networking, promoting and experience sharing

  • Business leaders provide advice and real tactics at the week’s events to help inspiring entrepreneurs tackle their dreams

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