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The M Dash

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Ampersand Woman: Digital Entrepreneur Randi Zuckerberg

July 24, 2014 | Filed in: Woman of the Week

Photo by Delbarr Moradi

Digital entrepreneur (and this week’s Ampersand Woman) Randi Zuckerberg spent six years as the marketing director of Facebook—yep, Mark’s her brother—before going on to launch her own endeavor, Dot Complicated. These days, she’s a netiquette expert of sorts, writing books and appearing on TV to address all manner of social media predicaments, like what do to if someone de-friends you and what’s really considered over-sharing when it comes to those baby photos. Though she oversaw many of Facebook’s most ambitious media and political projects—including the live-streaming of President Obama’s inauguration in 2009—Randi is the first person to extol the virtues of going into business for yourself. Here, she talks to The M Dash about forging her own path post-Facebook.

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How did you end up starting Dot Complicated?
Dot Complicated actually started out as a passion project. I noticed that whenever I was speaking at a conference or in a meeting, people would ask me questions about technology and their personal lives, especially when it came to their children. I started writing a newsletter that I would send out every few weeks, highlighting a new trend I noticed in technology, or an app or website that caught my attention, as well as the opportunities and challenges that arose from these new innovations. My little passion project quickly took on a life of its own—I very quickly went from hundreds of newsletter subscribers to thousands, and started getting calls from different television shows, like The Today Show and Katie Couric, and book publishers.

Part of being an entrepreneur is listening to the marketplace, and it became clear that I needed to make Dot Complicated a bigger part of the overall Zuckerberg Media business. In early 2013, I launched our Dot Complicated site and community, and in November 2013, released my first two books with Harper Collins: Dot Complicated and Dot (for kids). And we have several big announcements around Dot Complicated coming soon. It’s exciting when you can turn a passion project into an actual business!

Any discoveries that blew you away?
I learn things from our readers every day. The wonderful thing about this fast-paced, wired world we live in is that we’re all figuring things out together. I’m constantly astounded by readers who say, “Oh, I’m not tech-savvy at all,” and then bust out a truly insightful observation about the effects technology is having on our lives and families. Recently, we were about to publish a piece on the dangers of Snapchat, when a reader told me she uses the app as a quick, easy way to follow up with her daughter on play dates and sleepovers. She told me that because you can see videos and images, it’s a fast, easy way to check in and make sure your child is where they say they’re going to be. This made me see the service in a whole new light and examine the opportunities around it, instead of just the pitfalls.

What lessons have you learned since starting your own business?
Starting your own business is truly a roller coaster ride. A lot of the press about Silicon Valley makes it seem like these multi-billion dollar companies get built and sold overnight, but that’s just not true. Building a business is hard work and takes a long time. Everything takes twice as long as you think it’s going to take, and it’s at least twice as expensive. If you start a business thinking, “I’m going to sell this for millions of dollars eighteen months from now,” you’re kidding yourself. But at the end of the day, no matter what happens, it’s wonderful to know that I’m my own boss. I own all of my successes and all of my failures. Not a day goes by that I’m not learning.

Anything you wish you’d known when you first started out?
Just like running your first marathon or having your first baby, I think sometimes in life, you’re better off not quite knowing everything that’s in store. Otherwise, you’d never do it! Starting a company is definitely one of those instances.

Describe your work personality in three words.
Passionate. Risk-Taking. Loud.

Best advice you ever got?
Someone once gave me the greatest advice regarding reading press (including random tweets from people who don’t know you) about yourself: “You’re never as good as they say you are, and you’re never as bad as they say you are.” It’s something I try to remember every day. You can’t let praise or critiques go to your head.

If you could have a power lunch with anybody, who would it be?
Hillary Clinton! I want to know what it feels like to be on the tip of breaking that final glass ceiling!

Success is…
Feeling like you truly lived every single day of your life, and having no regrets.

Happiness is…
Going to bed at night, knowing you were the best person you could possibly be that day, and that you moved one step closer towards accomplishing your dreams.

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