Be like Facebook, not BlackBerry: How 'disruptors' can succeed


Posted at Jul 10 2017 10:04 AM

Logos of the social network Facebook are seen on a beach during the Cannes Lions in Cannes, France, June 21, 2017. Eric Gaillard, Reuters

MANILA - Entrepreneurs with groundbreaking ideas need business-minded counterparts to ensure success, an analyst said Monday, as startups around the world aspire to become the next Facebook.

Mark Zuckerberg founded the world's largest social network as a Harvard dropout but found a management hand in chief operating officer Sheryl Sandberg, said Ranjay Gulati, unit head of the Harvard Business School Organizational Unit.

Sandberg, who has an MBA from Harvard, is a former Google advertising executive who started out in the US Treasury. Zuckerberg got an honorary Harvard degree in May, 13 years after dropping out.

"What makes a great entrepreneur doesn't make a great scaler of business," Gulati told ANC's Early Edition.

Gulati said established businesses often struggle to compete with disruptors. He cited the former king of smartphones, BlackBerry, whose market share vanished as consumers ditched physical keyboards for touchscreen panels.

"They don’t know how to embrace change," Gulati said, adding BlackBerry's fault was "playing not to lose instead of playing to win."

Uber CEO Travis Kalanick resigned last month, under pressure from investors who demanded changes to the pioneer ride-sharing service's no-holds barred management culture.

Gulati said disruptors should be mindful of their corporate culture, adding, "In the end, culture is what comes back to bite you."

They should be able to empathize and "walk in the shoes of their customer," he said.

Disruptors should have a "bias for action" and be unafraid to fail, he said.

"The key word we have to think about is resilience. You're not going to get it right the first time. You have to have the resilience to keep trying, keep persisting," he said.