Life Lessons from the Facebook Founder

By: Prof. Enrique Soriano

Yes, that’s right! I’m finally writing about Mark Zuckerberg. I had the privilege of lecturing at Harvard two years ago and was fascinated enough when a colleague brought me to Mark’s dorm inside the campus.

How a bunch of college students became game changers in an industry where practically every product is a commodity can be awe-inspiring.

The Facebook co-founder and CEO is the world’s richest Jew and the youngest self-made billionaire in history at age 23, thanks to Facebook’s IPO.

He is one of the biggest gainers in Forbes’ Billionaire’s List, moving up 10 spots last year to claim the ranking as the world’s fifth richest person. This tech executive and social media leader achieved the feat with a total net worth that Forbes estimated at $71 billion. Since 2010, Time magazine has named Zuckerberg among the 100 wealthiest and most influential people in the world as a part of its “Person of the Year” distinction.

According to Wikipedia, Zuckerberg was born in 1984 in White Plains, New York, the son of dentist Edward Zuckerberg and psychiatrist Karen Kempner. He and his three sisters, Randi, Donna, and Arielle, were brought up in Dobbs Ferry, New York, a small Westchester County village about 21 miles (34 km) north of Midtown Manhattan.

Together with his college roommates and fellow Harvard University students Eduardo Saverin, Andrew McCollum, Dustin Moskovitz and Chris Hughes, Mark launched Facebook from Harvard’s dormitory rooms. The group then introduced Facebook to other campuses. Facebook expanded rapidly, with one billion users by 2012. Zuckerberg was involved in various legal disputes that were initiated by others in the group. They claimed a share of the company based upon their involvement during the development phase of Facebook.

In the process of building the world’s largest social network, Zuckerberg has had a lot of supporters, as well as critics. Whether you love him or hate him, the fact remains that this college dropout has built something that only a few on the planet had the privilege to build.

But what’s most fascinating is how he did it. In a article, there are profound and fundamental lessons (5 Ps) that Zuckerberg can teach us about building and growing a strong and vibrant business. Those contemplating and starting the path towards entrepreneurship and even Family businesses can learn and reflect on the following values:


  1. Passion

The most successful entrepreneurs are passionate about what they do. Zuckerberg has always been fascinated by building systems that connect people. His passion was always to make the world more open, sometimes radically so.

If you look at Facebook’s mission statement, its core hasn’t changed since inception. It states: “Facebook’s mission is to give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.”

But first, let’s define what passion is. According to Oprah Winfrey, talk show host, actress, producer, philanthropist and entrepreneur, “Passion is energy. Feel the power that comes from focusing on what excites you.” I couldn’t agree with Oprah more.

Yes, Zuckerberg has always been passionate about using technology to connect people, but he has also put in the hard work to achieve it. Having passion for something means that you don’t give up. It gives you energy to work through difficulties. Where some people see failure, a passionate entrepreneur sees only a learning experience, a stepping stone to keep moving forward.

To be continued… 


Prof Enrique Soriano is a World Bank/IFC Governance Consultant, Senior Advisor of Post and Powell Singapore and the Executive Director of Wong + Bernstein, a research and consulting firm in Asia that serves family businesses and family foundations. He was formerly Chair of the Marketing Cluster at the ATENEO Graduate School of Business in Manila, and is currently a visiting Senior Fellow of the IPMI International School in Jakarta.

He is an associate member of the Singapore Institute of Directors (SID) and an advisor to business families worldwide, a sought after governance speaker, book author and have written more than 200 articles and publications, including two best-selling Family Business books (Ensuring Your Family Business Legacy 2013 and 2015). You can read Prof Soriano’s business articles for free at