• Richard Araujo

    “In fact the two cofounders of WhatsApp abruptly quit Yahoo for no business reason and took a year-long trip around South America playing Ultimate Frisbee. With such a checkered and even frivolous history, your firm might have mistakenly rejected them also.”

    Or, mistakenly hired them into positions in which they felt they were undervalued, and so quit again for another year of Ultimate Frisbee, this time across Europe…

  • G C

    Really? If Facebook hired these guys, they likely would have been frustrated and bored in Facebook, creating nonsense products that served more and more useless, low brow advertising to a billion users–exactly what these founders despise. Maybe they only would become mediocre employees, then eventually guit to start WhatsApp. Further, if they had a bad experience working in Facebook, they might have sold WhatsApp to Google instead (perhaps despite the higher Facebook bid). Then Facebook would be BOTH without these guys as employees AND without the app they think is worth $19B. A double whammy…for HIRING them.

    Facebook, it turns out, may have made the right call in not hiring and instead letting these guys do what they had a passion for doing (albiet, $19B is pretty expensive and that’s a whole other post).

  • Drew Koloski

    IMHO you stating that this is a failure is off base. If you have ever worked at a start up from the very beginning or have been a very early employee, the risk taking attitude and overly ambitious ideas that make you successful will more than likely get you punished in the uber political environment inside of a big, slow company. It also comes off as “selfish” to most interviewers at big companies which is probably why he didn’t get hired. Facebook’s hiring goals for individuals and acquisition activity are mutually exclusive and probably shouldn’t be compared. I’m also pretty sure if we cloned 20 year old Mark Zuckerberg and dropped him out of Harvard today, Facebook wouldn’t hire him.

  • Martin Snyder

    Human affairs are emergent, “Big Data” would be as useful as sheep entrails or coffee grounds in predicting or managing these outcomes. Humility is in short supply…

  • Natasha Bernal

    @G C I really have to agree — perhaps the lack of opportunities given to them at Facebook contributed to them having the drive to prove them wrong — Who knows if they would have wanted to become intrapreneurs at all, let alone if they would have had the key circumstances that enabled them to create Whatsapp. Now that Facebook has purchased it, it’s up to them not to break it! As far as a lot of users are concerned, what Facebook has bought isn’t so much the product as their personal details (again). Will the terms of use change? Will the products merge into one? I find myself wondering whether the former Whatsapp team will simply turn around and come up with the next big thing on the market anyway….

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Dr. Sullivan. As far as a “certain company” using the type of metrics mentioned: is this the same company which admitted after 15 years the open secret known throughout the recruiting community that its application and counterproductive interviewing process was dysfunctional, likely not rejecting two but THOUSANDS of exceptional potential employees?

    @ Drew: Well-said. Does it really surprise anyone that companies controlled by an arrogant and powerful hiring attitude might reject people that “aren’t quite our type” or that founders of large companies wouldn’t probably be hired by them now, and if hired would likely be fired or quit soon thereafter?

    @ Martin: Could you elaborate?

    @ Natasha: Also well-said. “Will the terms of use change?”
    The joke going around is that even though the acquisition hasn’t yet been completed, FB has already changed the terms of use twice and the privacy controls three times (or was it four?).


  • Shanil Kaderali

    I love the idea of going to an executive leader and asking them what they think the cost of hiring mistakes. Really quantify it – good approach.

    I’d add though, with innovators (founders of whatsapp) – these are ideas people. They don’t always fit nicely into a box of most job roles. With a few exceptions of strategy and research roles with some creative freedom, it’s a very small number of companies and individuals who are into this category.

    Companies don’t have good ways to identify them and even then, how to give him a flexible job opportunity.

    The headcount is a cost – not an asset to many of these companies.

    if you inject some silicon valley & digital media openness to companies in retail, health care – in time, maybe but even some of the tech companies don’t get it right.

  • Richard Araujo


    Emergence is kind of like chaos theory. Human affairs are, in the end, nothing but a bunch of interactions between people under differing circumstances. The exact circumstances and interactions never repeat but affect the outcomes. That’s chaos theory via Jurassic Park and The Goldblum. Emergence is the larger patterns and entirely new aspects of systems that ’emerge’ as a result of those individual interactions. Human consciousness is thought to potentially be an emergent property, as an example. It’s the result of our brain chemistry. But, while these properties are the result of these systems, at least as of now, it’s impossible to reduce them to a deterministic level even though we know the laws governing those systems. We know the laws of physics and are subject to and the result of those laws, but physics can’t predict what I’ll eat for breakfast tomorrow, or who Facebook will hire.

    Generally speaking, predictions in these areas tend to fall far short of perfection, as in being incredibly wrong most of the time, and when right only so with extreme caveats. Who will get hired is the result of tons of discreet, non automatic and highly contingent decisions and interactions made by all the players in the process. Predicting it is essentially meaningless. Trying to predict what would have happened had another decision been made is likewise meaningless.

  • Keith Halperin

    Thanks, Richard. I was just reading on a another blogsite about a discussion of whether or not true AI were possible, if it were how long it would take, and if it would lead to a “Singularity” aka, “the Rapture of the Nerds”. Somebody there speculated that consciousness/thought might not be an emergent property, but an evolutionary one: “A further observation: human intelligence is not an emergent property, it is an evolved property. This refers to evolution in the narrow, biological sense of genetic evolution of multicellular, sexually-reproducing organisms over the last 800 million years.” Damned if I know- above my pay-grade…

    I don’t know about artificial intelligence, but I do know that things in recruiting would be a lot better with more natural intelligence and less natural arrogance on the part of those deciding policy…

    Happy Friday,

  • claudio weinstein

    I don’t believe the conversations of missed hires and acquiring companies is as “mutually exclusive” as it seems.

    As an entrepreneur myself, I often want to reach out and find others who share my thoughts in an effort to gain confidence, learn from others, and bond with those I feel can help put forth my goals indirectly.

    In some cases, my thoughts go to working under the umbrella of a profitable venture if only to develop an environment where profit can continue to be an important part of my work.

    In my own case, my imagination leans towards being too idealistic at times. At those times, I reach out to more profit minded partners to help me hone a portion of my developments towards profitability in order to afford me freedom to work on those more idealistic breakthroughs.

  • claudio weinstein

    Just to complete my thought on my previous post…

    I like the idea of companies tracking every applicant and follower the company has for the purpose of understanding their audience and developing successful hiring practices.

  • Richard Araujo


    From the discussions I’ve read, the two possibilities (evolutionary vs emergent) aren’t mutually exclusive. As always though, the point is, what’s the point? Hiring decisions may not be emergent, but they are by definition chaotic, being highly sensitive to initial conditions and the outcomes being dependent on multiple factors, all of which can greatly affect the outcome.

    As such, any hire that is not made is not one that can be judged as a success or a failure, regardless of what the person does subsequent to not being hired at company X. A truly controlled experiment is impossible, the person may have done really well or really poorly. Because it’s impossible to know, and because arguments for either possibility can be made, it’s perfect fodder for articles.

  • Keith Halperin

    @ Richard: Thanks.