Most of us know him as the co-founder of Facebook; the man who, in 2011, renounced his US citizenship to move to Singapore. And thanks to the film The Social Network — which Eduardo Saverin himself considers to be “Hollywood fantasy” — we also know a bit more about his exit from the social media giant (albeit a more dramatic version).
Today, Saverin lives in Singapore, and has invested in a number of local startups like RedMart and 99.co. He remains famously low-profile, and prefers to keep his personal life away from the prying eyes of the online world. But when you’re a 33-year-old billionaire, everyone wants to know your success story — including us here at Vulcan Post. So we did some sleuthing, and found five entrepreneurial lessons you can learn from the man himself.
1. Don’t Let Your (Lack Of) Age Get In The Way Of Business
When he launched Facebook in 2004 with Mark Zuckerberg, Saverin was only a 22-year-old student at Harvard University. Since he left in 2005, he has gone on to invest in startups all over the world.
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But what is perhaps less known about him is the fact that he is a pretty accomplished chess player as well; at the young age of 13, he beat a chess grandmaster, prompting The International Chess Magazine to feature him in its pages.
Young entrepreneurs often face the challenge of not being taken seriously by more senior players in the industry, but if there’s one thing we can learn from Saverin, it’s that it doesn’t really matter how old you are — you just need to have the guts and skills to prove yourself.
2. Reputation Is Important, But Don’t Let Bad News Get To You
Bad news travels fast, it’s true. When accusations sprung up that Saverin renounced his US citizenship only in order to avoid paying up to US$700 million in taxes, word spread, and netizens were quick to judge.
But dig deeper, and you’ll find a smaller, quieter group of people who are willing to stand up for him. Among them is co-founder of RedMart Mr Roger Egan who, in an interview with The Straits Times, said that Saverin has been “proactively helpful”, and has offered tips and suggestions to help in the running of his business.
This is but a fraction of the praise that those who’ve worked with him have expressed. If they are anything to go by, then it’s clear that where your reputation as a business or individual is concerned, bad publicity won’t hold much weight if there are also good things being said about you. In the long term, the good stuff should be all that matters.
3. Remember To Help Others Along The Way
Since his exit from Facebook 10 years ago, Saverin has gone on to become an investor for various startups around the world. He sits on the boards of some of these young enterprises, and offers mentorship and advice to budding entrepreneurs. Co-founder of 99.co, Mr Darius Cheung, for example, said in an interview with The Straits Times that Saverin is “so wealthy yet he is humble. He genuinely wants to help start-ups.”
As your company grows and you get busier, you might start to forget about the challenges you faced as a young business owner. But everyone had to start somewhere; if you’ve since got your big break — or even if you haven’t — don’t forget to extend a helping hand to others who need it. It’ll help in the reputation department, anyway.
4. Do Your Research, And Choose Your Battles Wisely
Embarking on a new project can be refreshing; even fun. But that doesn’t mean you should jump at every opportunity that comes your way, without first considering potential pitfalls and risks. A guiding principle Saverin abides by when it comes to making investment decisions is to “always put the consumer in the centre, identify the big problems they face, then see how technology can be used to solve those problems.”
In fact, his move to Singapore can also be seen as a decision that he’d deliberated carefully before executing. In an interview with Veja (via a translated version on Forbes), he revealed that “The decision [to move] was strictly based on my interest of living and working in Singapore.” With the rapidly growing startup scene in Singapore, it probably comes as no surprise that the serial investor chose to settle down here in 2009.
If you’re planning to take up a business opportunity, or are on the cusp of sealing a deal, this might be something to take note of.
5. Don’t Burn Bridges
Despite having been ousted from Facebook back in the day (Saverin now owns a 5% stake in the social media company), he insists that he has “only good things to say about Mark (Zuckerberg), there are no hard feelings between us. His focus on the company since its very first day is anything short of admirable. He was a visionary…”
It’s all too easy to get angry at ex employers, colleagues and clients when things go wrong. But it takes a bigger person to stay respectful and remain kind towards others during bad times. After all, you never know when you might need their help; you might even end up working with one of your past colleagues later on.