Zuckerberg calls Bill Gates a hero; talks mobile, challenges

Facebook CEO tells Disrupt audience that he may be the last one to ask for IPO advice

Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg figures he's about the last guy anyone would come to for advice on how to launch an initial public offering (IPO).

Facebook's IPO turned out to be tumultuous and disappointing, but in an on-stage interview with TecCrunch founder Michael Arrington at the Disrupt conference in San Francisco Wednesday, Zuckerberg said it was a learning experience that he thinks bettered the company.

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"It's funny on its surface," said Zuckerberg when he was asked what advice he would give to Twitter executives about going public. "Because I'm the last person you'd want to ask last how to make a smooth IPO. It's a valuable process. Having gone through what most people would characterize as a tough first year after IPO, it's not that bad. I actually think it's made our company a lot stronger because the process leading up to going public is very in-depth. We run our company much better now."

Zuckerberg fielded questions that ranged from how he challenges himself, Facebook's focus on mobile, and who he thinks should replace outgoing Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.

Zuckerberg admitted problems with the company's mobile apps. When Arrington said, "Last year your mobile products sucked." Zuckerberg quickly replied, "Oh, they did."

He also acknowledged that Facebook Home, a home screen and app family for Android, got off to a slow start.

"Home is rolling out slower than we expected," said Zuckerberg. "There's a difference between something not working and something not working yet. I'd say it's early in its development. It's not super far off. We'll just keep on working on it till we get it right."

Zuckerberg said he doesn't know who will replace Ballmer, but hopes founder Bill Gates will come back to lead Microsoft.

"There are probably a lot of people who can run Microsoft and do a reasonable job," he added. "When I was growing up, Bill Gates was my hero. He ran one of the most mission-driven companies I can think of. Right now Microsoft is less mission focused than they used to."

Microsoft was a game changer and now needs to refocus. "There are companies that define themselves by making a concrete change in the world. Microsoft did that," said Zuckerberg. "It was an incredibly inspiring company. I think they've lost some focus. But [Gates] is one of the greatest visionaries the world has ever had."

Zuckerberg also told of how he challenges himself to do something interesting or difficult every year. One year he tried (with limited success, he says) to learn Mandarin.

This year, Zuckerberg is determined to meet a new person outside of Facebook every single day.

"By doing different things, there are different perspectives and it's also about will power. I like to choose things that will be difficult to do," he added. "[Meeting people] actually turned out to be really easy. It turns out that I actually meet more than one person a day anyway. When I was planning this out, I set up things to get more involved in the community, I set up teaching a class at a middle school. I forced myself to do different things."

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed . Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

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This story, "Zuckerberg calls Bill Gates a hero; talks mobile, challenges" was originally published by Computerworld.

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