Many entrepreneurs believe that to find success they need to find the perfect mentor — that one person who’s been through it all.
But Randi Zuckerberg, a tech investor and media producer, says entrepreneurs shouldn’t waste time on such a pursuit.
“A lot of us think that we need to find that pie-in-the-sky mentor who’s going to help with our businesses,” the former director of market development at Facebook told me at CES in the American Greetings booth. “Over the years, I realized that person will always disappoint you, because the kind of stuff you’re working on didn’t exist when they were starting out in their careers, so how are they going to give you advice? When you do connect with them, they won’t have the time for you.”
As an alternative, she suggests upcomers find or form a mentor group of peers.
“Your peers are going to be the best mentors you’ll ever have, because you can bounce ideas off of them and you will all rise together,” she said.
Zuckerberg has taken on a lot of projects since 2011, when she left the company her brother Mark co-founded. She started Zuckerberg Media, performed on Broadway in Rock of Ages, served as a mentor and judge on the TV show Quit Your Day Job and adapted her children’s book, Dot. into a TV series.
Zuckerberg’s surprising take on mentors wasn’t the only thing she shared. Here are some other interesting tidbits from our conversation:
On this year’s big marketing trend.
“It’s really going to come down to storytelling and live video. Video is a way to tell a story that is so much more powerful. I think there’s also a real trend toward going retro. We’re going to see reminders of how we used to get back in touch with people.”
On what people really want out of media.
“We live in a world where there’s so much noise, you have to almost always create scarcity out of nothing. Live video creates scarcity. A handwritten note is scarcity because your time is valuable. People want to feel like they’re not missing anything. Consumers want to feel unique, special and heard.”
On her top tip for an effective Facebook Live.
“Start out with some great nuggets of information. For me, whenever I do a Facebook Live, I start out with a top three list or ‘here’s my topic, like or dislike?’ and immediately start to engage people. I think often, people are like, ‘hey, I’m here,’ and you lose people. Also, if you’re going to commit to a Facebook Live, you should be on for 10 minutes. If you’re only going to do it for one or two minutes, you should do a recorded video instead. As soon as possible, make it about the audience.”
On what technology she finds most exciting, but also risky for children.
“Virtual reality is so exciting to me on so many levels for what can happen in medicine, charitable givings, travel, architecture, you name it. I also think from a kid’s content perspective: What happens when you immerse children in violent video games? What happens 10 years later? Can you create false memories for children if you put them in VR? Do they think they went on a trip they didn’t go on?”
On how performing on Broadway inspired her.
“It’s so important for all of us to be able to walk a mile in other people’s shoes, to be well rounded and those experiences have helped me in every facet of my entrepreneurial life. It expanded my creativity in so many ways. It forced me into a situation where I had to put my phone down for four hours every night. It showed me a different method of communicating live with an audience in real time and how powerful that could be.”
On the role of hobbies and passions for entrepreneurs.
“I love technology and the arts, how could these two paths come together so I can do what I really love? With Dot, that is also born of a passion for getting more diversity in technology. As much as I love the innovation in Silicon Valley, you look around the room and things are pretty bleak in terms of women and people in color. I ultimately came to the hypothesis that this will not be solved in Silicon Valley, but in the media, pop culture, entertainment and the arts.”
On how women should pitch investors.
“Make sure you’re walking into the room with data. So many women walk into the room and say, ‘I’ve worked hard for this, I deserve this.’ No. That makes me want to give you a hug, not open my checkbook. The other thing is to immediately say at the top of your pitch why you’re the most awesome person to solve this problem. Men always start off their pitches by saying how great they are. For women, it’s a throwaway slide at the back of their decks.”
On technology’s role in raising kids (Zuckerberg has two sons).
“There are hundreds of ways to introduce children to technology that are creative and fun and doesn’t involve a screen. Even in our own household, there are a few gadgets we have that [teach coding]. People always ask me how much screen time I give my children, and I say very little. Then they say, ‘wait a minute, I thought you were so tech savvy.’ I’m like, ‘that’s a different question. You asked me about screen time.’ We have tons of tech in the household, we just don’t do that much with screens.”