Facebook and the Life Cycle of Campus Ventures

Our most recent poster-boy for campus entrepreneurs has been Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook, and social media. But, with nearly 100 million users and almost $350 million in revenues,  Facebook is a giant.

An article in the WSJ by Guth and Vascellaro explores the recent departures of Facebook co-founder and head engineer, Dustin Moskovitz, and other high level employees. According to the article, “As a number of Facebook’s earliest employees move on, its ranks are being stacked with Senior Executives from Google Inc., Yahoo Inc., and other established technology firms.”

It interesting that Yahoo and Google (firms that were also founded by campus entrepreneurs) execs are specifically mentioned. The article goes on to explain that most of the changes they bring are related to managing of employees — “Among the changes they’ve brought are new guidelines for performance reviews, new recruiting processes and training programs.”

In researching what makes the campus a unique place to uncover opportunities and create new firms, we will also have to wonder at what point a successful firm will ‘grow beyond the campus’ and perhaps change into an entity that can no longer fully take advantage of the campus. Does that venture become a more ‘traditional’ firm?

Though I am stumbling with this new question — it boils down to whether or not there is a life cycle for certain successful campus ventures. When they leave their status of campus venture or campus entrepreneurs behind them.

It could be when the firm and entrepreneur move from their college/campus town to some ‘better’ location (ie Facebook’s move to Palo Alto from Boston). Or perhaps it is when they move beyond the original ‘campus as market’ model that they used (ie Facebook opening to the whole world). Or perhaps it is when they take venture funding and have serious board members and professional managers brought it (Facebook took its first real funding in the summer of 2005, one year and 4 months launch).

This life cycle question is important as is the question of whether a campus birth will have lasting effects on a firm (and its founders) even when it matures beyond being a campus venture? Any thoughts?

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