The founding principles of business ethics at Facebook, according to co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, are as straightforward as the site’s privacy settings system.
Many of the early developers of Facebook have moved on to work at other companies, but they operate under a specific code, Moskovitz said Monday: A great idea is a prerequisite for starting a company, businesses should be built for the long haul, and Google is not an ideal employer.
He spoke at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco.
Moskovitz, who was portrayed in a few scenes in the “Social Network” movie, described the dark characterization of Facebook’s founding as a creation myth, contrary to authors’ depictions, courtroom testimonies and the Hollywood film. He and his crew executed “with the right ethics,” and the many lawsuits were handled “in exactly the right kind of way,” he said.
“When you build something really big, that stuff will happen,” he said of Facebook’s opponents. “It was a little scary at first.”
Facebook’s runaway success in 2004 was clear to the founders the day after they launched the website, Moskovitz said. No amount of money would have convinced them to sell the company, he said. But that theory had certainly been tested over the years.
Like several other high-profile Facebook founders, Moskovitz left to start his own company. It’s called Asana and makes project-collaboration software for businesses. Some of the ideas for Asana were conceived when he was a manger at Facebook, he said.
Moskovitz agonized over quitting Facebook and “looked for every reason to stay,” he said.
“We left Facebook because we had the idea for Asana,” he said. “I hated the idea of starting my own company. I really didn’t want to become an entrepreneur.”
Mark Zuckerberg, Moskovitz and other Facebook elite helped romanticize the concept of starting a business, Moskovitz said. He said he regrets that consequence of his success because Silicon Valley is rewarding programmers who pitch unimaginative ideas.
The goal for many is to flip their companies to a frequent shopper like Google, which competes with Facebook in many areas.
Dave Morin, another Facebook founder who left to design a social network for more intimate groups called Path, spurned an offer from Google, Moskovitz said. There, he would have been locked into “indentured servitude” because of restrictions in his contract, said Moskovitz, who is an investor in Path and advised Morin not to accept the offer.
“All of those people (from Facebook’s early days) have done great work and added a lot of impact to the world and, frankly, are financially very secure,” Moskovitz said. “So the only thing they’re interested in now is doing that again — you know, adding massive impact to the world and thinking about the very long run, and trying to build companies that last and really change the world for the better.”