After 10 years in Silicon Valley and an extraordinary career, she dropped everything
36 year-old businesswoman, entrepreneur and writer, Randi Zuckerberg, Mark’s sister, used to be marketing director at Facebook. After 10 years in Silicon Valley and an extraordinary career, she dropped everything. «Something wasn’t right». Today she writes books, opens techno restaurants and does what she can to make sure that everyone has access to new technologies and learns to use them better.
«Silicon Valley is an incredible place, made up of extraordinary talents, who are capable of changing the world. However, women are still excluded. They have no say in these big companies». After Facebook, Randi started thinking about how to make technology accessible to all. She discovered that as early as 6 years old girls were already distancing themselves from scientific subjects. In the meantime she became a mother and re-designed her life. Returning to New York, she founded Zuckerberg Media and decided to do something to attract the youngest to scientific subjects. She wrote a book for children called Dot, which became a television series on Nbc. She created Sue’s Tech Kitchen, a technological wonderland designed by Nasa scientists to encourage the youngest children to love science. Here, every child can design a sweet, print it with the 3D printer and eat it, or interact with a robot and learn to programme it.
We meet Randi at Wobi Milano, the World Business Forum
Randi is the eldest of four children. When she was little she had a dream: to be a singer, to perform on the Broadway stage. However, at every audition she was rejected. «I soon learned to not let it get to me. My new life and my love for technology stemmed from those broken dreams». After graduating in psychology from Harvard, she worked in New York for Ogilvy & Mather, an important advertising and marketing agency, for two years. She found a job the day after she graduated. «Two years later, I was managing a 7 person team and I was doing wonderful innovative things».
The years when Mark created Facebook
It was 2003, Randi was 22. They were the years when Mark began to create the Facebook team. «I started receiving messages from my brother with increased frequency. “I am creating a small company, we need your skills. Why don’t you come and see what we’re doing?”. If you have a brother, you know that the translation of these words is: can you come and work for me for free?». Randi didn’t want to go, she didn’t believe in the project. She took her time. He insisted. And it was only when he offered to pay her plane ticket to California that she believed him.
«I thought of the sun, the glamorous world of San Francisco, the paid flight. “I’ll stay for six months”, I told myself. When she arrived at Menlo Park, Randi found nothing glamorous, just an incredible chaos. «I was stunned. I found myself living with people who programmed 24 hours a day, ate meatballs and chips, drank Red Bull in an appalling mess. For several days I thought I had got it all wrong. However, something struck me and slowly began to rub off on me: it was the incredible passion of these guys. They were responsible for their success and for their failure».
This was where Randi found out she was an entrepreneur
«During a hackathon, I invented Facebook Live, the service that makes it possible to broadcast live and share videos with friends. When I presented it, there were only two people listening to me. A failure». However, after three weeks Randi got a call from Katy Perry’s manager: the singer wanted to do her show on Facebook Live. From that day the service was used by millions of people. «When the White House called me to inform me that the then President Obama wanted to use Facebook Live, I understood that we were doing a wonderful job. I was at the peak of my success. I earned money, I enjoyed myself, but something was not right».
«We need a technology that saves us from itself»
«I had a complex relationship with Silicon Valley. Where there is male chauvinism and they are all obsessed with technology. I went to the dentist and even he explained how a new App would have changed my teeth. I was driving on the freeway and Google Cars, cars without drivers, overtook me. People bought Tikkers, the clock that counts down how much longer you are going to live. Amongst the most absurd running Apps, there was Zombies, Run!: you are the last person on earth, you have to run, chased by monsters to deliver a letter that will save humanity… Technology offers us great opportunities, but we have to use it to improve the life of people and to solve true problems. And sometimes we have to learn to disconnect ourselves. Even if it costs us. Because no-one has changed the world by staying glued to the telephone for 24 hours a day».
After having left Facebook, Randy was named as one of the 50 most influential women in the digital world. She wrote the bestseller Dot Complicated in which she tells her story in Facebook and how the social networks have changed, improved but also complicated our life. She has assets of more than 100 million dollars. In 2014 she sang on Broadway in the musical Rock of Ages.