As we normally do at PandoMonthly events, we opened up the floor to the audience to ask a number of questions of Mark Pincus. Pincus really covered some ground with these questions.
Audience: I feel like there’s a disconnect between Zynga’s value and what investors and Wall Street are valuing the company at. What am I missing?
Pincus: [Pause] I can’t comment on whether or not Wall Street is valuing things appropriately or not. I don’t feel like that’s my job. What I can say is that I believe that the long-term opportunity in social gaming is substantial and we’re going to continue to invest in that so that we can be a ubiquitous service in the future. We’ve proven the size of the market on the Web and Facebook; I think we still need to prove the market for social gaming on mobile.
I can’t say we’ve done a great job of offering players a network beyond the game they’re in, and it’s important that we can prove that we can open that up to third-party game developers as well.
Audience: Can you explain the news that you took back stock from employees in the company?
Pincus: Why would I ever do that? If I wanted people to stay at the company, why would I ever go and take back stock from people? The actual facts behind that story were that we had a handful of people in the company that we had ‘grown past’ and they couldn’t stay in the position they were in. Rather than terminating them we offered them a lesser role in the company with a lesser form of compensation.
Audience: What is your advice for people like me, who aren’t in college yet. Should we just jump right into building a startup?
Pincus: If you have the next Facebook idea, go do it. If you don’t, put yourself in a learning environment for ten years. I feel like there’s not any value in doing five years at an incremental startup for the sake of it. Figure out what you’re passionate about and go find a company that’s doing it at scale, and go do that.
Audience: How do you avoid over-extending yourself as a startup CEO?
Pincus: Schedule time now for hiring so that in six months when you have even more to do, you have better people to rely on. You just have to apply band-aids and cross your fingers.
Audience: How do you balance the people who joined you at the beginning with a true meritocracy?
Pincus: I think you spend your career working on that. There isn’t one answer; You have to keep re-selling the mission and the values, and you have to keep proving it to them. I think that as long as people see that you’re staying true to that, I think that they’ll stay.”
I think when you’re in danger is when those people don’t think you’re making the hard decisions anymore. They will hold you accountable, and they will tell you when they think you’ve lost your way. And you will always lose your way; Every month there is always something that is pulling your company off its path.
Sarah: What do you believe that no one else believes?
Pincus: That all people will play social games in the future.
And finally, on Pincus’s mediocre super power: