One question I get a lot: Is Zuckerberg a “visionary” or did he just get lucky?

The answer is visionary.

How do I know?

I tried to compete with this guy.

And in 2005, we spoke for an hour and he shared his 10 year $FB plan.

The kicker? It all came true.

Thread time👇
In 2004, @aniketkshah, @chrisamos and I were amongst the first Facebook users (we were in one of the first 8 schools where it started).

Being ambitious young entrepreneurs ourselves, we thought: let’s start HIGH SCHOOL version of Facebook!
At that time, like many, we believed FB would never go beyond colleges because it would alienate its core user base.

In the summer of 2005, we would work 9am to 11pm at our finance internships.

And then nights and weekends, we worked on building this website.
Naming was an issue.

Our first obvious thought was:

We tracked down the owner who was another college kid our age.

He asked for $10 grand and we quickly concluded: we need another name.
We settled on It was super cool!! (I still feel proud)

Similar functionality to FB.

More vibrant colors and iconography.

Features built for HS.

Eg we encouraged school pride and sports, had event calendars, stucco connections.
To build: We forked the open source “PHP BB” to build it on. The good old “lamp stack”. As many nifty “AJAX” drag and drops as we could build.
My favorite feature:

High schools don’t have dotedu email addresses so we had to verify you were in HS somehow.

We found a massive database of every high school with its mascot, colors, street address, teacher names, etc

(At the time, you couldn’t just Google this stuff)
For thehighlist…When you logged in, you had to answer 3-4 questions like the “credit check” questionnaire we’ve all done to verify your ID.

All had to be correct to gain access!
We ambitiously wanted to launch mid summer so that students would use it at summer programs and then take it back to their HIgh schools.

It would “go viral!” Network effects! Yes yes yes!!

We launched in less than 2 months.

And we were NOT prepared…
Upon launch, we realized we had no CMS.

In the first week, we had 100 requests to change their name or login email, we had no easy way of doing it.

Someone’s parents reached out about our incorporation credentials. Uhhh what?

We used a server that was quickly overwhelmed.
Still, the site showed great promise.

The site grew fast. Certain schools went viral in less than a week. 0-2000 kids. Boom. DMs blowing up. Tons of activity.

It grew to over 20k users in less than a month.
How did we grow?

There was no growth playbook then.

We spammed our friends.

We handed flyers out at summer programs.

We used AIM a lot.
As summer came to a close, the owner of emailed us and said:

“Mark Zuckerberg reached out, they are going into high schools. he wants to buy my domain.

Are you guys interested still?”
We felt like we got punched in the gut.

We had worked insanely hard. This thing was growing.

And now if FB was launching into HS, we’d be dead meat.

We had to verify if this was true… but how?
So we responded. “Yes we are interested and will bid higher but can you prove Zuck really wants to bid?”

He forwarded an email thread.

It had Zucks phone number.

I couldn’t resist.
I called it.

He picked up.

I introduced myself and explained I was interested in this domain and wanted to verify he was too… then I asked one question:

“are you actually going into high schools?!”
He went into a 45 min monologue… and he outlined 80% of $FB strategy that happened from 05-15.

First high schools, then work places, then cities, then everyone.

He talked about newsfeed, job boards.

He talked about this being your social ID like your drivers license.
At the time, we were super sad and scared. If they are doing high schools, we are f*&ked.

Sure enough a few months later they launched into HS and were 10x our user base within a month.
Despite the fact we were still growing and had a rich angel who wanted to invest, We concluded (incorrectly) that only one player could win.

With pressure to choose a full time job, we folded…

What did I learn? Here are 3 lessons:
1 ) Don’t quit so early.

The entire adventure was less than 6 months. A few years later, similar websites we were larger than (specifically had a 9 figure exit!
2 ) Be bold.

I am bold to the point of reckless at times. Still, calling Zuck is now an amazing life experience plus it got me critical info when I needed it.
3 ) Drop scarcity thinking.

I was so caught up on doing it myself/ competitive that it never even occurred to me to combine with FB or work there despite conviction in my idea. I’m sure if we had shared all we had accomplished, Zuck would have hired us with nice equity.
Looking back, it was a fun and amazing learning experience and quite the thrill to build/learn/fail.

And everything turned out fine :)

And yes, @finkd is the real deal.

Follow me @jspujji for more stories about entrepreneurship, growth mktg, DTC and more!
Since people asked, I went on to built multiple 8 figure businesses and now I am building @GatewayX a venture studio which has launched @GrowthAssistant, @unbloat and @appkahani in the last year.
With GrowthAssistant I actually try to solve my biggest problem:

Stop my team from getting bogged down in rote work.

For only $3k/month, you can save your team dozens of hours in manual tasks every week

Sign Up Now 👇🏽👇🏽

I just searched my old emails and I found our 20 page written biz plan!!! @chrisAmos @TheNickShah

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Great thread on competing in the early days of Facebook to get communities online