Friendster: Lessons from a Missed $400B Opportunity

One of the important lessons I’ve learned over the past 20 years of startup life is that if you’re going to become a tech entrepreneur or investor, expect to fail. Like most folks, I don’t like failing, but understanding that it’s part of the process and that it can lead to eventual big success has helped soften the blow. Friendster, the first social network (yes, there was a market leader years before Facebook!), was one of the more painful startup setbacks I’ve experienced in my life.

The team at Gimlet Media did a fantastic job re-telling the Friendster story and why it failed to become the $400B company that Facebook is today. As you’ll hear on the podcasts, I was the fourth employee at Friendster and have quite a bit to say, especially in Part 2, about the valuable lessons I learned from that experience. You can listen to the full story here: Friendster: Part 1 and Friendster: Part 2 podcasts.

As the podcasts note, many of us from the early Friendster days have been fortunate to go on to do amazing things in the tech industry, even after such a massive failure. John Doerr, famed investor of Kleiner Perkins and early Friendster investor has since backed big hits like Slack, Uber and Twitter; Reid Hoffman who also was an early investor and advisor, went on to be cofounder of Linkedin and a successful partner at Greylock Partners; the founder of Friendster, Jonathan Abrams and first employee, Kent Lindstrom have both become successful angel investors and have started the well-funded tech startup, Nuzzel; and, after I left Friendster, I was fortunate to join Michael and Xochi Birch to launch Bebo which sold three years later to AOL for $850M and then founded my own venture fund, Maven Ventures, in 2008. I’m grateful to be able to share these valuable lessons every day with the talented startup founders we invest in at Maven and help them avoid critical mistakes as they’re on their path to creating their own successful billion dollar businesses.

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