Move Fast, Break Things, Slow Down

Facebook started with a saying: “Move fast and break things.” Later on, they updated it to say: “Move Fast with stable infrastructure.” Why did Zuck change his tune?

First, we need to understand why he had the initial statement. The phrase is common in startups, although they read it differently. On a small scale, the motto is about moving fast and not being too worried about creating bugs that are easy to recover from. At a larger scale, technology companies move faster than current social, economic, and political frameworks can tolerate. When they move that fast, they break things like labor laws and democracy.

“Move fast and break things” doesn’t scale.

All companies are fighting entropy. All enterprises must die. Valar Corpratus.

When you are a young startup, death looms. When you are pre-revenue you know that you have to find something that works or you will die fast. Fast aggressive plays are less risky, because you have less to lose.

Startups live every day as if it were there last.

As companies get older, bigger, and more stable, the time horizons increase and the risks get larger. They can’t play fast and aggressive anymore.

Playing to win vs. playing to not lose

It’s similar to playing in a no-limit hold’em poker tournament. When you have lots of chips, you can afford to play conservatively, and betting all you have is an unnecessary risk. When you don’t have many chips left, your only move is to go all-in and do it first.

Facebook started short-stacked, But then it won some huge pots and became one of the big stacks. Instead of taking risks, they switched gears and focused on the long game. No more breaking things. Time to slow down and protect your winnings.k In 2012, Zuck laid it out in a letter to investors:

We used to have this famous mantra … and the idea here is that as developers, moving quickly is so important that we were even willing to tolerate a few bugs in order to do it. What we realized over time is that it wasn’t helping us to move faster because we had to slow down to fix these bugs and it wasn’t improving our speed.

In the past we’ve done more stuff to ship things quickly and see what happens in the market. Now, instead of just throwing something out there, we’re making sure that we’re getting it right first

Mark Zuckerburg, letter to investors 2012

The bigger the company, the higher the stakes, the slower the tempo.

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