Sheryl Sandberg: We’re More Afraid Of Losing By Standing Still

In an interview at New York’s IAB conference, Charlie Rose asked Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg if Facebook had ever made assumptions that weren’t right.

Sheryl Sandberg confirmed yes, and referenced Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s comments about the failure of Facebook’s HTML 5 efforts at TechCrunch Disrupt. Sandberg implied that these sorts of failures were part of the company’s strategy: purposefully going big even if it means failure or slow monetization.

“You want these companies taking risks,” co-interviewee Marc Andreessen said, defending Facebook’s moves. “When tech companies start being conservative, that’s when they go completely sideways.” Andreessen referenced a “hit rate for new ideas”: “If a company is hitting more than 50% of its goals it’s too conservative.” He also declared that “successful companies defer gratification.”

That’s an endorsement of Facebook’s Hacker Culture and long-term view. The social network hasn’t met everyone’s expectations since going public, and that’s fine with COO Sheryl Sandberg. “Our plans are big, bold, aggressive enough, risk-taking,” said Sandberg, “so the times we hit them they’re big enough that they achieve the growth we want to achieve for our company.”

Facebook could have aimed for an ad-heavy site that didn’t know much about you. Instead it’s spent years deferring revenue to maximize engagement and the data it collects. The big plan? To use the bio, social, and action data to make ads more relevant across the entire Internet through a Facebook powered off-site, off-app ad network

The idea of going big also explains Facebook’s high IPO price. Facebook sees itself as worth $38 or more. The money it raised by IPOing at that price gives it the war chest to make big acquisitions, hire rockstars, and move slow and steady as it prepares to turn all the world’s ads social.

Sandberg went on, quoting Mark Zuckerberg, “There are two ways to fail: either you don’t hit your plan, or your plans are too conservative and you hit it quarter after quarter as you slide out.”

While every new technology brings fears, the two basically agreed that you don’t win by playing it safe. “We are more afraid of losing by standing still than by not changing,” Sandberg said.

Additional reporting by Josh Constine, image via Sheryl Sandberg.