This time last year, Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg was striking deals and prepping for an enormous initial public offering.
A year later, he’s gone through a botched IPO, his biggest acquisition — Instagram — has yet to generate much money, and the company was caught flat-footed with its mobile strategy.
It’s a laundry list of fumbles, but he’s apparently learned some important lessons from them.
No, really. He has. And he wants you to know about it. That’s why Zuckerberg has been unleashed by his media people, including a cover spot in Fortune and a big interview in Wired. All of it is advertising the fact that Zuck is now a firm believer in monetization — and driving shareholder value — with his idealistic ways in the rear-view mirror.
So what are some of the big lessons he’s picked up along the way?
First of all, building mobile apps is far different than building web-based ones. They require understanding the form factor (tiny screens) and the importance of how it’s used — namely, users are often on the go. This means development really needs to understand the intracacies of each platform, such as Apple’s (NASDAQ:AAPL) iOS or Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) Android. A one-size-fits-all strategy doesn’t work — something that almost killed Facebook.
Then there’s the lesson of speed — namely, while it’s usually a given necessity in tech, it’s not the best strategy every last time. Sometimes, too quick a pace can be destructive, especially if a company has, say, 1 billion users to consider. Even a small change can cause big problems.
When making the shift to mobile, Zuckerburg realized the transition had to be smooth, which meant hiring the right engineers and designers, building a strong infrastructure and paying close attention to user needs.
Also, for a business to maintain its lead, it has to do more than just copy features. However, Facebook long has seemed more concerned about co-opting rivals like Twitter, but that never pushed the company forward.
That’s what makes Home for Android so important. The app is a sign that Facebook is going back to its innovative roots. And, it’s a game-changer in that it recognizes the importance of the valuable real estate of a mobile device’s start page. Facebook was savvy to develop an app to take advantage of this with its assortment of valuable assets, such as photos and chat.
The Big Prize
Zuckerberg clearly has not been resting on his laurels and taking money swims in his vault. He clearly wants to keep Facebook relevant and, increasingly so, investors happy.
Considering the company’s rival chat operators like Tango, Line, Kik, WhatsApp, KakaoTalk and WeChat, as well as general social networks like like Pinterest and Tumblr, it’s encouraging that Zuck still has his killer instinct.
With his company’s enormous resources — and engineering talent — he has a fighting chance of becoming the king of mobile.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook. He is also the author of High-Profit IPO Strategies, All About Commodities, and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.