Noah Kagan on How He Got Fired From Facebook and Lost $100 Million
I’m TIRED of answering this question so I’d rather write it out and just point people to this post.
Let me start in reverse.
I can tell you every detail of the day I got fired aka “let go” aka “down-sized” aka “shit-canned.”
I thought I was going to a routine coffee with my boss and randomly saw Matt Cohler sitting at the table inside (surprising)!
I knew something was amiss. Matt broke the news quickly and I was in dead-shock as the words came out of his mouth. They walked me back to the office and removed my laptop and my cell phone.
Then I proceeded to the Verizon store to use their phone, called my gf (at the time) and drove to the house I shared with 6 other FB guys.
Packed up all my stuff in my CRX, smoked a 1/2 pack of cigarettes on the balcony and drove to my friend Johnny’s place. It took me a bit to let my mom know and I slept on Johnny’s couch for a few days, thanks J!
Later that night we had a bbq at this place and everyone was asking me how the job was going….#awkward
I kept drinking that night to pass out and pray this was all a bad dream.
At that time, here’s the order of what was important in my life:
3- Food / Shelter
4- My gf
To spell it out. Facebook was my entire life.
My social circle, my validation, my identity and everything was tied to this company.
How the fuck could have ended up like this?
WTF! I just got a promotion and a raise 2 months before!
This was my first time being fired and it took me 1 year to get over the depression.
After running AppSumo for over 2 years I’ve finally understood that Facebook made the right decision to let me go.
When you hire people there are three types of employees:
1- Grower. Someone who starts when the company is small and improves / adapts their skills as the company scales.
2- Show-er. Someone who can be good for the company where they are now but NOT where they are going.
3- Veteran. They’ve done it before and it’s second nature for them to teach you how to do it in your company.
I was a show-er at Facebook. I dealt with chaos of a 30 person company extremely well. (Did I mention my boss got fired on my first day and my next boss got fired 2 months after me?)
Most decisions were me walking over to Mark’s desk for approval, but at 150 people it was a group meeting of 30 people or me having to schedule time via Mark’s secretary.
I was a bit annoyed with the situation even though our memories always deceive us. Ever recall how you thought all the times with your ex-girl/boy friend were great but in reality there were a lot of shitty times…
The specific reasons I wasn’t able to adapt are as follows:
1- Selfish. I wanted attention, I put myself before Facebook. I hosted events at the office, published things on this blog to get attention and used the brand more than I added to it.
Lesson learned: The BEST way to get famous is make amazing stuff. That’s it. Not blogging, networking, etc.
2- Marketing. The marketing team’s plan was not to do anything and the night before we opened Facebook to the professional market (anyone with a @microsoft.com, @dell.com, etc…) I emailed TechCrunch to let Michael Arrington know to publish it in the morning. He ended up publishing it that night (I was at Coachella and will never again attend) before the actual product was released in the morning. I immediately notified the e-team and assumed full responsibility.
Lesson learned: I don’t think what I did was that wrong since the marketing team did not do anything to promote our new features. My lesson learned was more I should have involved them instead of just going around them.
3- Skills. As I said above when things needed to get done. I was there and shit got done. As we progressed to needing to organize massive spreadsheets and big group collaboration meetings, I zoned the F out and was then shortly out of the company.
Lesson learned: Go see if your weaknesses are hindering you at your job. Ie. I wasn’t great at planning or product management at this time. Fix them or move to another position. Also, constantly ask yourself how can I make the company more valuable. You do that and you will never get fired*. *unless you do something really stupid or the company goes out of business.
Each human on Earth has super powers. I’ve realized mine are execution, sales, marketing, eating tacos and throwing in occasional jokes.
As I’ve gotten older I’m more patient, a bit better at planning and able to work better with larger groups. Would I be a great fit for product management at Facebook now, likely; would I ever work there again, Frick No.
Ultimately, when I’m hiring now I’m looking for people who have gone to the promised land and can come back and teach us. They’ve built certain things, done the marketing we need to know, etc…
Matt Cohler (early LinkedIn, FB and now Partner at Benchmark) called me a “liability” as they let me go that day in the coffee shop on University Avenue.
This has scarred me and I’ve worked hard to be an asset to the companies I start and people I’m involved with. Thanks Matt!
A few key things I’ve learned after letting people go from AppSumo:
1- It stings the person WAY more than the company. I thought every day that the company missed me but I’ve learned they just keep going on with business. AND (UN)FORTUNATELY most businesses get better. So be stern when letting someone go but be reasonable and thoughtful to how it must feel. I encourage everyone to get fired once so they know that feeling. It’s unbelievable and something to definitely learn from.
2- EVERYONE is replaceable. You are NOT special and there is guaranteed someone better than you on this planet. So be the opposite, find the way to be invaluable where you work. This doesn’t mean locking things into you but opening things up so you are trusted and subsequently valued more.
3- Most people when they get let go, they know it’s time. They may not want to accept what their subconscious tells them but they know it’s right and it opens them up to something better. Instead of throwing them away, help guide / work with them to see what is their true calling and better suited for them.
People hear me speak or see my resume as awesome experiences but the details / depth of them is the interesting / meaty part.
Being at Facebook is where I grew the most professionally. I’ve NEVER been around such smart people. I’ve never felt so consistent like I wasn’t the smartest person in the room.
So all this combined ended up costing me around $100,000,000. It is what it is. Ultimately, I appreciate where I am now and all the experiences I got from NOT being there.
A true measure of an entrepreneur / successful-person is how they deal with adversity.
As my high school drama teacher told me the day I ran crying off the stage, “it’s not the outcome but learning from the experience that really counts….”
The above is a reproduction from Noah’s blog, OkDork.com which focuses on online communities, marketing and fun business things. We hope this honest article can be a life changing one for others too.