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The almost match: Facebook and Boston

By Michael B. Farrell
Globe Staff / November 1, 2011

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If Facebook cofounder Mark Zuckerberg had to do it over, he might have kept his online social network, which today has more than 800 million users, in Boston.

Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, famously hatched the company while he was a Harvard University undergraduate but moved it to California’s Silicon Valley, where it grew into the multibillion-dollar enterprise it is today.

Asked Saturday at a Stanford University forum what he would do differently, Zuckerberg said he might stay local, a video of the event shows.

“If I were starting now,’’ he said, “I would do it very differently, but I knew nothing back then. Honestly, if I were starting now I would have just stayed in Boston.’’

Zuckerberg said Silicon Valley’s attention span lacks “long-term focus’’ and its culture often does not value commitment. “A lot of the companies that have been built outside of Silicon Valley . . . seem to be on a longer-term cadence than the ones in Silicon Valley.’’

The comments struck a chord in Boston. The fact that Cambridge saw the birth of one of the Web’s biggest innovations - and of a company that has been valued at $80 billion - but lost it to California has been a sore point.

“What I was pleased to see is that he’s acknowledging that Boston can hold its own,’’ said Michael Greeley, a general partner of Flybridge Capital Partners, a Boston venture capital firm.

Many investors have said Boston has a strong roster of companies but lacks brand-name consumer companies like Facebook, Google Inc., and Apple Inc. “If Facebook had stayed,’’ Greeley said, “we would have had a dozen other companies that would have been started by Facebook employees.’’

Zuckerberg said his point was that upstarts don’t need Silicon Valley to succeed. Still, California at the time was the right place. “I had to be [in Silicon Valley]. Facebook would not have worked had I stayed in Boston.’’

Michael B. Farrell can be reached at michael.farrell@globe.com.