Imagine sitting in a movie theater, and when the lights dim and credits roll, you see your life unfold on the screen.
I recently had this opportunity as I watched, with amazement and humility, my life and experiences appear before my eyes in the recently-released film “The Social Network.”
As a co-founder of Facebook, I have wondered how Hollywood would depict its creation and development on the big screen. Would it be accurate? Would it showcase our failures, as well as our successes?
What I gleaned from viewing “The Social Network” was bigger and more important than whether the scenes and details included in the script were accurate. After all, the movie was clearly intended to be entertainment and not a fact-based documentary. What struck me most was not what happened – and what did not – and who said what to whom and why. The true takeaway for me was that entrepreneurship and creativity, however complicated, difficult or tortured to execute, are perhaps the most important drivers of business today and the growth of our economy.
America, and its strength in technological innovation, has benefited for decades from a society that encourages entrepreneurship and creativity.
One way to measure the value of entrepreneurship is to look at the impact of venture-backed companies in the context of the over-all public stock market.
Relatively young companies such as Microsoft , Apple and Google are huge drivers within our economy and each rank in the top ten of all public companies in terms of market value, according to the 2010 Fortune 500. Remarkably, none of these companies even existed a mere thirty years ago. These are the types of companies that result in the creation of thousands upon thousands of new jobs. Just as importantly, they affect our lives in a way that enables us all to conduct our daily business in a more efficient and productive manner.
With Facebook, we built a product because we believed in it and its function, and wanted it to exist.
Today, Facebook affects the world in so many more ways than just its initial execution at Harvard. Mark Zuckerbergsuccessfully developed an entirely new world for daily interactions. Today, the Facebook platform brings a social layer to many of the ordinary actions we conduct online everyday.
The creation of a business from the embryo of a concept is the genius of the entrepreneur.
But, unlike so many things in life, there are no boundaries as to who can be an entrepreneur. You can be a college student. True innovation is blind. As the web increasingly democratizes innovation and costs decrease, anyone can showcase a product – just look at Facebook or YouTube. In the digital world, the dependency on a large checkbook to start a business is diminishing. Instead, what has become increasingly more important is the help from others — the intellectual capital and know-how to succeed.
Entrepreneurship involves mistakes and failures. But ultimately, if you have that intellectual capital and intimate understanding behind your project, you have a chance to succeed.
Intellectual capital, and not just monetary capital, will spawn the next great product or idea. Entrepreneurs, especially in the technology sector, will create things tomorrow that we can barely imagine today. They will struggle. They will fight. Many will fail. Others will thrive.
What we must be most vigilant about is maintaining an economic system that continues to encourage entrepreneurship and creativity. If we want our country to truly succeed in the 21st century, we will need the public and private sectors to also think in creative ways to encourage and further facilitate the creation of new companies.
This is not just an American issue, but a global one. As someone who was born in Brazil, grew up in Miami, and educated in Boston, I have seen first-hand that the challenge of creating new businesses is a global opportunity. Entrepreneurship must be encouraged by everyone around the world. Working towards a common goal of creating new companies should be an aspiration for everyone, no matter what their political stripes or leanings may be, or where they live. Entrepreneurship is not limited to just our borders.
In the digital world, borders are permeable.
While watching the “Hollywood version” of one’s college life is both humbling and entertaining, I hope that this film inspires countless others to create and take that leap to start a new business. With a little luck, you might even change the world.
Eduardo Saverin is a co-founder of Facebook. Eduardo managed the business development and sales aspects during Facebook's early years. Eduardo graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College with a degree in Economics.