At Facebook, Zuckerberg still orders teams into lockdown (sort of)

At the annual Y Combinator startup school event, the Facebook CEO revealed that a tradition from the early days of his social network persists to this day, within the bounds of the law.

Zuckerberg spent his time with Y Combinator founder Paul Graham at the organizations' annual startup school event. Nick Statt/CNET

CUPERTINO Calif. -- In the early days of Facebook, when schools with competing services would get the jump on the burgeoning social network with a unique feature or interesting addition, the company would go into what CEO Mark Zuckerberg called lockdown, where the team wouldn't leave the house until the problem was addressed. It still persists to this day, within reason.

Facebook doesn't lock people in the office, but it comes "as close to that as we can legally get," Zuckerberg said to an eruption from the crowd.

Zuckerberg spent his time with Y Combinator founder Paul Graham at the organizations' annual startup school event riffing in his well-rehearsed off-the-cuff interview style. It's a far cry from just a few years ago, when he'd sometimes sweat under pressure.

When at ease, Zuckerberg even conceded to the influence of "The Social Network" film with regard to the early ingredients that formed Facebook. For instance, he began his interview in typical fashion, mentioning his desire to connect people and the things he enjoys building that provide insight into that pursuit.

That was when Graham interjected, "You mean FaceSmash?" Zuckerberg then relaxed, letting slip a jab at the David Fincher and Aaron Sorkin film. "That stupid movie...," he began, before the crowd erupted and drowned out the last few words of his sentence.

"About the only thing I got from FaceSmash was I met my wife from it," Zuckerberg revealed.

After creating the female student comparison Web site at Harvard, which was glorified by "The Social Network" and controversially employed in its script as a retaliation against an ex-girlfriend, Zuckerberg says that what actually happened was that all of his friends and family were convinced he'd get thrown out of school.

"My friends were just completely positive I was going to get kicked out," he said, so they threw him a party where he would meet Priscilla Chan.

Zuckerberg reiterated that prior to Facebook and FaceSmash, he was already creating social Web sites that were getting thousands of visitors within Harvard, like one that let you peruse other students' past and current classes and one to compare annotations on classical artwork.

The conversation meandered, and Graham questioned Zuckerberg about his management style and how he'd changed over the years.

"They say more Americans are afraid of public speaking than death," Zuckerberg recounted, comparing the experience to what it was like learning how to manage an immensely fast-growing company without any prior experience. "So throw yourself in," he added. "You get over it."

About the author

Nick Statt is a staff writer for CNET. He previously wrote for ReadWrite and was a news associate at the social magazine app Flipboard. He spends a questionable amount of his free time contemplating his relationship with video games while continuously exploring the convergence of tech, science and pop culture.

 

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