Matt Cohler helped build Facebook, Snapchat, LinkedIn and Uber. Here's his advice for startups

Posted January 20

Matt Cohler is one of the most influential entreprenuers you've never met.

Cohler, a managing partner at Benchmark, a venture capital firm, worked at several tech industry leaders throughout the United States. He's spent time at Facebook, LinkedIn, Snapchat, Uber, Tinder and Instagram, among others.

And on Thursday, Cohler spoke with Domo founder Josh James at the Silicion Slopes tech summit, an event held by the Silicon Slopes organization that focuses on the growing tech industry.

Cohler spent the bulk of his interview with James speaking about Snapchat and Facebook, two companies that had a tremendous impact on his career and the country alike.

He also told stories about Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, which taught him about the social network's founder.

Here's a quick look at what Cohler said during the summit.

On Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg:

Cohler told two stories about Facebook that offered him insight into Mark Zuckerberg, and why the social network's founder is heads above the rest of Silicion Slopes leaders.

Back in Facebook's early days, Cohler helped the company obtain investments. Having spent some time at LinkedIn, Cohler learned all the venture capitalists who would invest in social media companies.

Cohler said he convinced Zuckerberg to meet with some investors for dinner. At the meal, Zuckerberg disappeared into the bathroom. Cohler went searching for him. He found him crying on the bathroom floor. Zuckerberg said he couldn't go through with the deal because he already promised somebody else that he or she could be an investor.

“It was a remarkable thing to see anybody, especially somebody who was doing this for the first time" break down like that. Cohler said it helped him understand Zuckerberg's character.

The second story focused on Facebook's introduction of the news feed in 2006. He said the company faced so much backlash when it first entered the Facebook product.

But Zuckerberg never wavered.

Cohler said Zuckerberg told him that "this is the future of the company. This is what we’re here for," and this is showed him something about the Facebook founder.

“There’s always been a clarity of purpose, which I think it defines all great entrepreneurs.”

On Snapchat:

Cohler said Snapchat's beginnings almost doomed the app. Media and reviews identified it as an app for sexting.

“That’s what people talked about," he said. "Yeah, people must be using this for sexting.”

But Cohler found something different with the app's users — teenage girls used the app to share selfies with each other. Investors saw the app connected people to each other in a more personal way.

“It was a form of communication. A new form of communication," he said. "More than anything, it makes you feel like you’re physically present with a person. Like you’re actually there in the same space as a person. That was a powerful, emotional thing for people early on.”

He said Snapchat taught him a valuble lesson: “You start by unlocking this little problem.”

Advice for startups:

Cohler said he learned a lot about how start a business through working with investors.

“There are so many things that can not go right," he said.

For example, if the early 2000s app Friendster grew quicker and had more marketshare, then Facebook would never be where it is today, he said.

He also said it's hard for companies to succeed when they don't leave themselves room to grow. Most apps grow because they spread through networks.

“Start with something specific, but not have it so specifically hard coded that you don’t leave yourself somewhere to go," he said.


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