I find myself in a hotel in Eastern Europe after 3 days of red eye flights across 8 time zones on a secret mission for my start up. I have slept only 2-3 hours each day since Tuesday. It is in these sleepless hours, propelled by my inner drive to make a dent in world, where I find the solace to connect with the deepest parts my own soul. Some find that solace in yoga, exercise, religion, music. I find solace when I ‘do’- when every cell in my body is telling me that I am doing something that will move my ideas from my brain into the hands of millions of people. This is when I am most alive. I feel the power that we all have inside of ourselves to bring life to the dreams we all hold in our hearts from childhood and beyond.
In the inner sanctum of my own mind, solace focuses and clarifies the stream of my ideas and thoughts. I project these thoughts on the canvas of my life where I see them like moving picture frames interwoven with all the threads of my life experience. I look up at the window of my lonely hotel room on the 11th floor, illuminated by the white glow of my Mac Powerbook- a golden apple shining in the night- and see first my own reflection, and the world looking back at me- a world in forward motion. A world evolved; of knowledge and expertise no longer bound to geography or culture. Of experience and talent unbound and accelerating forward beyond the valley of our own experience and into every corner of the world. In my combined travels as an entrepreneur, I have seen an evolution in the last 10 years that is astounding. The world is us now and it’s pulling away.
A perfect storm has been brewing in my great country, America, whereby our competitive advantage- knowledge amalgamated with speedy execution propelled by an iron gut unafraid of risk- has now spread like a virus across the globe. We no longer have the monopoly on the classic American entrepreneurial spirit backed by angels and venture capital. The American Way has become the Global Way.
And yet this, I realize, at this very moment, is not a bad thing. It is a very great thing. It is the single greatest contribution we have made to the world. It now behooves us, the American entrepreneurs, to reach out to the talent that lies across the world, and embrace them. They need us as much as we need them-and it is a need that will not remain symmetric for long. They need us now but if we do not invest in building meaningful relationships and ties then they will evolve beyond us.
It is in this bridge that the future lies- it is in this future that hope lies. As much as we can teach others, we must be as open to learn from the world in return. We hacked our way into the American dream but we have not cracked the code on what that dream means in the 21st Century. This is the work of my generation. We must hack our way to a New American Dream in the 21st Century. While our financial systems lie teetering on near destruction, we realize we must build from the ground up a new system. That means our identity as a nation and culture will shift to reflect the quilted nature of a world not tethered by the traditional boundaries that kept out influences and isolated our evolution.
In the city I am in right now I was told that during the Communist regime they broadcast only 2 hours of television each day. One hour of that time was watching their ‘dear’ leader. There were no cartoons for children to watch. No movies to inspire. A generation was lost. I have seen the difference in the eyes of those born of that lost generation- an emptiness; a harshness; a coldness. But in the freedom generation who benefited from the fall of the Communist empire, you see a very distinct breed of American idealism, a hope for the future and the drive to get there. They haven’t figured out everything but they are hacking their way into that future. We must hack along with them.
Looking back at the window across the cityscape, I see reflections of my past and present- my immigrant family, my friends, my colleagues. I miss my two children, Cyrus, 11, and Darya, 8, who are so excited about the games I am building. I just got off the phone with them and Cyrus and Darya were pitching their new ideas for games. I raised them as a single dad for 7 years. My daughter, Darya, was in a Baby Bjorn (a Godsend for me), as I wrote my business plans in my garage. My son Cyrus, would attend Board meetings, crawling between Board members legs. They both would witness brainstorming sessions as they played with Legos and watched Baby Einstein.
I remember those moments and tears come to my eyes as I remember last week when Cyrus heard that our game iGolf had become the number one app on the iPhone. He said to me,” Daddy, I am proud to be your son. I am proud to have a father like you.” His statement hit me like a ton of bricks. Remembering all the sacrifice and hardships, I was floored by his love. It is moments like these that we live for.
Feeling nostalgic, I logged into Facebook to see pictures of my family and friends. As I logged in, I saw in my news feed a picture of Dave McClure’s son Dante dressed up as a Native American. I then went to view my albums and my kids. While viewing them I had another epiphany when I connected the dots between Facebook and a recent scene (please watch it below) from “The Wheel” episode of Mad Men. Draper is pitching a campaign for the “The Carousel”, the slide show projector, to representatives from Kodak.
In this scene, Draper, turns off the lights and begins to project personal pictures of himself with his family. As he speaks he says:
“[Teddy} also talked about a deeper bond with the product. Nostalgia. It’s delicate but potent. Teddy told me that in Greek nostalgia literally means ‘the pain from an old wound.’ It’s a twinge in your heart far more powerful than memory alone. This device isn’t a space ship; it’s a time machine. It goes backwards and forwards. It takes us to a place where we ache to go again. It’s not called the wheel. It’s called the Carousel. It let’s us travel the way a child travels; round and around and back home again to a place where we know we are loved.”
The look on the faces of the executives of Kodak as the lights come back on is so classic. Goose bumps rippled across my skin as I watched this scene. I remember my parents showing slides shows on their Kodak Carousel in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s. The dust in the air. The darkness of the room. The pride of my father as he projected our travels and vacations to us and friends. The delight in the eyes and voices of my parents and their friends as they watched and shared reflections of our recent past.
I realized at that moment, that Facebook, is my Carousel. Facebook is my time machine. It is my projector. It is a digital place where I know I am loved by my family and my friends. It is the room where my friends are showing me their slide shows from their lives, their travels. It is a slide show of the human soul. Of the human endeavor. It is the projector that brings clarity and focus to the lives of others. It brings us out of our inner sanctum and to the outer world of our relations. It displaces time and space and brings us back together again no matter how far or long we have been apart. We have all had that experience where you see your friend after 10 or 20 years and it feels like only a day has passed. That is because bonded human relationships are truly timeless. Those bonds can get tighter and stronger when we tap into the power of Facebook.
Those inside of Facebook must know and be driven by a higher mission and cause. They must realize that they should not treat their jobs as normal jobs. They are and should be on a mission to innovate around and extend Zuckerberg’s genius and make it ever more elegant, relevant, personal and inspiring. Facebook is not a technology. It is not a portal. It is not a media company. Facebook is a new form of human communication. It is more akin to the invention of a new language. A new language the world is learning to adopt, appropriate and make its own. It is about anthropology and psychology. It is about humanity. It is about evolution. It is more than a job. It is a cause. A cause whose form can affect the function of our world.
If the cause is extended correctly as a new form of communication it can make an ever bigger dent in the universe. The challenge for Zuckerberg as he scales is to weed out those who are in it for the cause and those that are in it for something else. He has always surrounded himself with amazing talent who deeply believe in the cause- like Sean Parker and Matt Cohler. And he has amazing talent and leadership like Sheryl Sandberg, Dave Morin, Chamath Palihapitiya, Ruchi Sanghvi and others who are deeply driven by the cause. A cause this important must remain pure to become a once in a century contribution to how we live our lives and how we exchange ideas and goods together.
Those who are building businesses around this cause must also put the cause first. We must not dilute it. This new form of communication is what can bring us together across boundaries in ways that make it efficient for an entrepreneur like me to build a global gaming company with talent from everywhere. I see what I do as a cause too. I see Social Games as also a new form of communication and entertainment as important as email, instant messenger and television. I see games bringing people together in new and fun ways that they have never had a chance to connect before. (fluff)friends is a great example of a new community filled with love, that connects people together in totally new ways and engenders loyalty and communication. Users create totally new content like videos and even a children’s book that no one could have ever predicted. By focusing on inspiration and user experience we will help evolve the form and the function and make it a part of daily life.
This new branch of gaming would not have been possible without Zuckerberg’s bold bet that openness leads to greatness for all. It’s an idea and meme that is spreading to every other closed system. Closed systems must go. Increased transparency married with open systems and user driven extensions and content will lead to a better world for all.
It is now 4:46 am here. I now will try to get some sleep and wake up in a few hours. There is another city to travel to. More connections to make with talented developers and artists and more dreams and ideas to bring to life to share with you all in the near future. The Carousel turns.
Somewhere in Eastern Europe
September 27, 2008