Tech Veteran Ime Archibong on Leading with Purpose
“Genius is everywhere.” An unsurprising phrase from someone like Ime Archibong who has had a front row seat to some of the greatest movements in tech over the past two decades.
But for Ime, the son of proud Nigerian immigrants, the phrase has a much deeper meaning. If genius is everywhere, how do we find it, empower it and spotlight it? What does it look like? Who represents it? These are the type of personal and societal questions at the core of Ime’s role at Facebook where he has worked for over ten years with community builders, entrepreneurs and nonprofits.
An eternal optimist with a fierce work-ethic I’ve seen up close, Ime is the person people want in their corner. Knowing how to hustle — something he displayed as the captain of the Yale basketball team — is not what sets him apart. It’s compassion and purpose, two things that vividly come to life within minutes of meeting him.
We sat down to dig into what he learned from his parents growing up in the South, how to lead through a pandemic where the tides have turned for tech, what he’s up to with his new team at Facebook, and of course, who would win in a running race between him and Mark Zuckerberg.
Cookies for Breakfast
David Swain: What did you have for breakfast?
Ime Archibong: It’s election week here in the United States, so my diet has not been one I’ve been proud of. This morning, like the last two mornings, I started my day with a cookie.
Whole Foods is right down the street in San Francisco — they have a brown butter cookie that is to die for, and it’s also dangerously addictive.
What time of day was this wonderful cookie?
I’m an early bird, so I’m typically up working in the six o’clock hour.
That is my first memory of you in our early years at Facebook. I’d get into the office early thinking I was way ahead of everyone, and you had already worked out and been sitting in your computer for two hours. Have you been able to continue that work ethic?
Yeah, it’s still there. As you get older, you realize at what time you do your best work, and where you have energy. In my case, the most strategic and the most active time for me tends to be in the mornings. That hasn’t changed at all. Unpinning that is this drive to do more.
For better or worse, I have a little bit of a feeling of never being satisfied. I feel really fortunate to be in this industry and at Facebook at this moment in history. We have such an opportunity ahead of us as humanity and society are trying to figure out the internet. Knowing that I have the time to try to shape that and make sure that we get it right over the longer history is something that fuels me. So my work ethic hasn’t gone anywhere. If anything, the urgency feels like it’s only increased.
From Nigeria to Kansas
Let’s go back to your childhood influences and what growing in Kansas was like for you.
When it comes to influences, I think everyone has to acknowledge their first teachers. My first teachers were my parents — two Nigerian immigrants who left Nigeria separately, both with a goal of further educating themselves in the United States. They met in Lawrence, Kansas, of all places. Shout out to the “Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!”
My parents were the reason I grew up with what I call the “immigrant mentality.” Scarcity is a thing, and you have to grind and be scrappy. I have memories of me, my parents, my older sister, and younger brother all living in one-room housing on Kansas’ campus. I would see my parents wake up every single day and not just care for us, but know that they had to go to work. The origin of my name alone will tell you enough of what you need to know about my parents.
My older sister is named Emma, and my younger brother is named Tony. People often ask, “Why did you get the Nigerian name?” My mom was pregnant with me in Kansas in the late 70s, early 80s. The professor who was administering her PhD qualifier exam had a track record of not being super keen on women in higher education, better yet a black African woman immigrant in higher education who was also nine months pregnant.
My mom was due on the same day of her PhD qualifier exam, so she asked if she could take it early or a bit later. The professor said no. She could take it on that day or wait another year. Well, my mom did not have the resources to wait for another year to complete her education. Instead, she had me at 7:17am in the morning, and despite the doctor’s orders, she checked herself out of the hospital and went to her exam. According to her, she aced it. Then she checked herself back into the hospital. Ime means patience in my dad’s native tongue. My mom would always say that that was the biggest test of patience in her life.
What did the next five to 10 years of your parents’ path in academics and your childhood look like?
The seed of hard work was planted in me during those early days. My parents were going to school, and they had multiple jobs. My dad will often joke that he was working at a nursing home and an underwear factory and going to school. The other big lesson that I learned from that time was just how important it was to give back, to serve, and to stay connected to a community that you care about and a community that took care of you.
For two Nigerian immigrants in Kansas in the mid 70s, the Black community in the United States was an important part of their foundation. When it came time for them to graduate, we ended up moving to Greensboro, North Carolina. My mom was looking at different places where she could teach, and despite offers from other places around the country, she really wanted to spend time at an HBCU, a historically black college and university. North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University made her an offer, and she was really excited about getting there. She was excited about getting back to the community where she found a home when she arrived in the States.
As a kid, did you feel connected to the community you were in?
Yes, and no. My parents made it a point to ensure that my brother, sister and I knew that we were Nigerian. Whether we were in Kansas or North Carolina, we found the Nigerian community. Within the Black community of the United States, there are folks who consider themselves pure Africans, and there are people who are multiple generations of growing up in the States.
As we were trying to integrate into North Carolina, the Nigerian community felt like home, and that was great. As for the Black community in North Carolina, and where my mom taught at an HBCU, I would say that it took me a little bit of time to really get settled there and understand my place. I went to a Catholic school, so a large part of my educational community, which ends up being your good friends, were white, Catholic, and middle class. The only thing we had in common was Catholicism. Those early days were definitely identity formation; it was a lot of finding my place and getting comfortable.
The “immigrant mentality” has clearly impacted who you’ve become. Were you aware of it as a child? Was there pressure to embody it or was it more a part of your identity?
Looking back, I am forever grateful that my parents demonstrated what hard work looks like. I don’t know if I would have been able to articulate that as a child. But seeing both parents working late, volunteering, and having that hustle mentality was something that even if you don’t realize it at the time, it’s setting the bar for you. They’re showing what the expectation is, and I’m appreciative of that.
There were definitely more explicit moments I remember. How Nigerian immigrants raised their children in the community is pretty funny. “Oh, you got an A- on a paper? Why didn’t you get that A+? Where were those other two points?” The bar that was held for my brother, sister and I, especially when it came to academics, was incredibly high and incredibly rigorous. My parents weren’t going to take excuses. They believed deeply that everyone had agency and that hard work could compensate for anything that didn’t come naturally. The rigor and the expectations of preparation that my parents put into academics around the dinner table and demonstrated for us was ingrained in our DNA.
Were you naturally talented academically?
Science and math came easier to me. No surprise, that’s the track that I ended up on. My close friends know I have a lot of insecurities around spelling, despite the fact that I am a decent speller. I can remember in first or second grade, I had to learn 10 words in a week, and I was continually bringing back 30s and 40s on the tests. I remember my mom saying, “It’s just unacceptable. You have five days to learn these things.” So my brother, sister, and my parents sat down at dinner, and everyone grilled me on the 10 words that I was supposed to learn.
Again, this is the hard work, no excuses, and if you put in the work, you’ll see the results. I definitely saw the results. Since then I’ve used that as a good North Star every time something hard is put front of my face.
Yale Basketball and Life as an Athlete
Where did basketball come into play?
My dad played soccer in Kansas. That was his sport. I was active as a kid, and my first sport was soccer. But it’s hard to be in North Carolina, with the Tar Heels and the Blue Devils, and not fall in love with basketball, right? In third grade, I was introduced to basketball and played with all of my friends up the street and at school. I joined the YMCA and the AAU. By the time I was in the eighth grade, I had decided that basketball was the sport that I enjoyed the most and the sport that I wanted to continue to pursue as I got into high school, potentially college. Probably much to my dad’s chagrin, I put soccer aside and focused on basketball.
You ended up at Yale with a serious run on the basketball team.
I think context probably matters. If anyone pays attention to Ivy League basketball these days, it’s pretty impressive. They’re meeting some big name teams, and the League has gotten incredibly good over the last couple of decades. If you rewind back to the late 90s, when I joined Yale, I think we were second to last on the AP poll for Division I basketball programs.
My college choice was primarily dominated by academics, the opportunity to study computer science, and the opportunity to go to an institution like Yale. But it was grounded with the opportunity also to pursue basketball. That was a big piece of my life and a big part of my identity, so the offer of a great education and the chance to play basketball was almost a no-brainer. I joined a team that wasn’t great, and the journey over those four years is one I’m incredibly proud of. We went on to grow the program and really set the stage for, in my opinion, what the program looks like today.
There were two places where I would see you early in the morning at Facebook. One was at your desk and the other was in the little gym we had back in the day. Talk about your life as an athlete and what role that’s played in how you think about work, health, and your approach to life.
To go deeper into my Yale experience, most of my leadership, team, and work ethic skills come from that four year experience, on top of what my parents taught me. You bumping into me at the gym early in the morning is an extension of that. I always start my day off with some type of workout. These days, with COVID, it’s a little bit trickier, because running outside isn’t ideal in the dark. Gyms haven’t been open. I don’t have that much space at my house. But, ultimately figuring out a way to get my body moving and get my mind moving, really helps me get sharp in the morning. That has been an important piece of how I have operated and navigated life since being a “full time athlete.” That won’t change.
In 2003, you received the Roosevelt L. Thompson Prize from Yale, which is given to a graduate who exhibits, among other things, compassion for all people, and the promise of moral leadership. Was that recognition for how you led the basketball team or your activities on campus? Where did people see that compassion and leadership?
Everything from showing up myself to how I led the team and how the team showed up for the University at the time. Rewind back my freshman year, I’m sure many athletes have this experience where you were the best in your high school or your community, and you go to the next stage, and all of a sudden, it’s a big punch in the face. Everyone’s bigger, faster, stronger, and plays the game a bit smarter.
My transition was rough. I often joke that the coach didn’t even know my first name. He just used curse words to ask me why I wasn’t running hard. In retrospect, he saw a lot of potential in me, but he didn’t see someone who understood what it looked like to sell out on the court. I think a lot about how I’m assured as an individual, and what hard work looked like on the basketball court. I credit James Jones, who’s still the basketball coach at Yale, for drawing that out of me and teaching me a lot about myself.
I didn’t play much my freshman year. Coach Jones and I had a conversation at the end of that year. He told me he had recruited seven guys for the freshman class next year, guys who jump higher, run faster, and play defense harder than me. He wasn’t sure what my role on the team the next year would be. It was a punch in the gut, but I was stubborn. It goes back to how my parents raised me. I have agency, I worked harder, and I played more basketball that summer at a higher level, with the toughest opponents that I could find. That next year the team voted me the Most Improved Player, and by the end of my sophomore year, I had been voted to captain.
Focus, hard work, no excuses, and knowing that even if you aren’t the most talented, your mindset and your point of view can compensate for a lot and actually make you an incredibly effective part of a team. Also, just to connect the dots to what happened, we had a tragedy in 2003 in our baseball and football community. Four students passed away in a tragic car accident on the way back from New York City. It hit the Yale community hard.
That year Yale went on to win the first Ivy League Basketball Championship. It was 40 years since the first postseason victory. I remember the president of the University reached out and said, “I don’t think you understand what you and the team did. The way that you guys played energized and brought this community back to life during a time that was incredibly tough for us.” Whether we knew it or not, we were showing up for the Yale community at large in a way that helped heal some of that tragic loss that we had earlier in the year.
Leading with Purpose
2020 has been a dramatic year on all accounts, from the pandemic to racial justice, and for Facebook, the scrutiny has never been higher. More broadly, people are struggling with finding purpose when they’re home alone. How are you finding your purpose in this environment? How do you help keep your teams motivated with so much happening?
2020 has been the confluence of a bunch of different crises, like you named. We have the health crisis with the pandemic, and I have many friends who were affected by the economic crisis that then came as a result of that. You talk about racial justice, or the inequities surfaced this year in a very in-your-face and ubiquitous way. Clearly, that’s a reality that I deal with on a day-to-day basis as a black person growing up in and navigating America. And here in California, we all remember when we couldn’t walk outside this summer. That’s a good reminder of the climate crisis. All of that happening in one year was a lot, and it was heavy.
The thing I will say is my purpose was never in question. To be honest, I feel like I’ve been anchored on what my purpose has been for probably my entire life. My parents had a plaque in the house I grew up in that said “Only a life lived for others is a life worthwhile.” That’s a quote by Albert Einstein.
The thing I like most about that quote, and it’s been my North Star, is that here is a man of science, technology and math reminding everybody that the reason to operate and to navigate life is in service of others. That’s the reason why I was drawn to Facebook, and the reason why I continue to be fueled and excited about what we are doing and what we have the opportunity to do even 10 years into my particular journey here.
As a leader, of course 2020 is a curveball. A lot of how I lead, connect with my team, build trust, and motivate is physical. I love to be there and be in the mix. That may be the athlete in me. I don’t want to be on the sidelines watching, I want to be on the court. Having to operate and lead in a virtual world required new skills, skills that I hadn’t leaned on in a long time. I had to make a lot of mistakes and be egoless enough to understand when I was messing up.
At the Facebook level, you’re right. We’re touching over 3 billion people across our properties every single month. All the crises of 2020 show up in the work that we do, how we are contributing or not contributing, helpful or not helpful, on a daily basis. Moving forward, leadership is not going to get less complex. It does require a new level of bravery and boldness.
A lot of adjustments are being made right now, but purpose has always been clear. We are a tech platform. We believe in technology’s ability to tackle people problems and the societal problems that got accelerated over the course of 2020. Figuring that out and contributing continues to fuel me and gets me excited every day.
The tide has shifted in the media and in the public over whether or not tech is for good. How do you lead people in this environment?
The tides have definitely shifted. Back in 2008 or 2009, we could have sneezed and people thought we were changing the world, which was way too generous. These days, we can help 4 million people registered to vote, something that is demonstrably, in my opinion, good for society, but now there will be more cynicism and questions about what our intentions are. It’s a tough environment to operate in. As you know, I’m an optimist. I remind our teams that our goal is to build products that conveniently improve people’s lives and give people power. Focus on that, be anchored on that, and ultimately, that will be the story that will be told over time. If you can build something that resonates with people in an environment where there is nothing but questions and cynicism, then you know it will stand the test of time.
I’m okay with the criticism and cynicism. Given the size, the scale, and the reach of what we are accountable for, there is a very high level of responsibility and accountability that we internalize here at the company. I don’t fault people externally for expecting the same level of accountability and thoughtfulness that we need to put into our products given the kind of the reach that we’ve achieved at this point.
When you’re on the inside, you have the data. I can spend a day or two addressing some of the questions or the cynical points of view that people have about how our products are showing up for the world, but what people externally can’t see is the amount of stories I have that are positive. I know of someone’s grandparent who lost their life during COVID and the only way they were able to connect at the end was through two Facebook Portals, one in the hospital and one in their kitchen. The family truly appreciated the way our technology showed up for them in that meaningful part of life.
Over the course of the last decade, part of my job was to work with people who were using Facebook’s tools and technologies to strengthen their communities. From people who were using Facebook Groups to organize support during hurricane relief to farmers like Noah in Kenya who used Facebook to build a community of small farmers that is now thriving. I have stories like those for days. That is empirical evidence of how our tools and technology are demonstrably good for the world and for society. I have way more of those stories than I do with the opposite, and that’s a grounding foundation for people who are working internally.
Representation in Tech
Let’s talk about being Black in technology. For you, there’s the personal level, the societal level, and then, at a company level, Facebook’s ability to spotlight voices. Where are you optimistic about this year? Where are you troubled?
First, I’ll give the optimist point of view. I can speak for Facebook, but I assume that this exists for the industry as a whole. We care about this issue of racial equity and justice. We care about the treatment of Blacks in America. We care about this issue enough to figure out our contribution to actually solving it. This is a societal issue that’s way bigger than any industry or any company. The question is, if a society has to do this work, what is the contribution we as an industry can do?
I’ve been inspired, impressed, and excited about the contributions and the intentionality that has come from not only the internal Facebook leadership, but all the way down to the person who was hired yesterday. We did the typical, Facebook-style hackathons where we get good ideas and surface them. Not all of them are gonna be great, but if you can find that 1%, it’s going to be decent.
A lot of the conversation around race in America wasn’t giving space or platform to actual Black voices. That was one of the things that we’re able to do as a company. We launched a Black voices hub that was an aggregation of video, posts, and news stories from Black voices on this particular topic, so that we can continue to elevate the discussion and hopefully move things forward over time. We continue to invest in that which is great.
In this new role as head of New Product Experimentation, we believe that we can enable a bunch of underserved needs, and inside of those underserved needs is universal products that are going to lift the entire world. As a company, when we asked, what can we do to contribute, it was easy for me as a leader to say, this is important to me, and I’m going to dedicate a portion of my resources across my organization to focus on this.
I want to see what we can do from the tech seat to actually tackle the societal issue. I now have a handful of entrepreneurs who are thinking about equity and thinking about what they can build in order to advance equity on a number of different dimensions right now. It’s no surprise that we would raise our hand to do that.
So I am optimistic, but I do have concerns. Representation matters. The fact that my New Product Experimentation team was able to tackle this so quickly and figure out the right approach is not a surprise or mystery. My leadership team is about 50% women, 50% people of color.
For the industry to get this right over time, you got to have the butts in the seats. You’ve got to be representative of the community you’re trying to serve. The industry’s numbers are public, and Facebook’s numbers are public. We’ve got work to do. There’s a lot of work to do. I’m sitting in a technical seat now. I look around at the technical representation of Blacks in our industry, and I know that we’re not where we need to be, or we deserve to be. There’s a lot of work to do on that front, but I’m hoping that over the next decade, it looks very different.
A lot of people aren’t going to Yale or Stanford, but they could have a huge impact in tech. What have you learned through your years of opening doors for people who don’t have the perfect resume, but could have the perfect contribution?
Genius is everywhere. If I went back through pivotal moments of my life, the most important would probably be me bumping into somebody and learning how to speak the particular language, or vernacular, to navigate a new industry or space. That has been more critical towards me being at a place like Facebook and having the opportunities I’ve had to do the things I’ve done, more so than the Yale degree, more so than the Stanford degree. I don’t want to trivialize those things, but they’re not silver bullets, nor are they even required or needed.
I just spoke with a woman who’s been at Facebook for about two years now. She grew up in East Palo Alto, and didn’t have an opportunity to go to the best of the private schools on the Peninsula. Her community was the Boys and Girls Club, East Palo Alto. At 12-years-old, she met a mentor who stayed in touch with her and encouraged her to continue to learn, to pursue a high school education, and then think about college. The mentor and I happen to know each other because we sat on a board together. The mentor had told me that she’s a really talented person, but doesn’t have all of the fancy credentials. She asked me to talk to her, and I could tell she is smart, passionate, and excited. I knew she had all the right, raw ingredients and just needed an opportunity to see them shine. I put her in front of the right recruiter, and the right team picked her up two years ago. She’s been at Facebook thriving and dominating ever since. I believe when you actually open up those doors and make those opportunities happen, it’s a catalyst for the rest of the community.
This person is at the top of my mind because we caught up last week. We had the typical conversation, “How’s COVID treating you?” She described her current shelter in place situation, and said, because she’s had so much time to think this year, she’s working on a side project of building up a mentorship. She wants to demystify Facebook and demystify the tech industry for more people in the East Palo Alto community and the Boys and Girls Club. That way, people won’t look at Facebook and think it’s something they could never be a part of. She sees herself as a standing testimony, here for two years. I agreed that people need to know her story. The fact that she is now using her time and energy to open up more doors is exactly the reason why opening up doors is worthwhile. It makes sense for us to spend energy on this stuff.
Those are the kind of stories I hear time and time again. We’ve got to get people the right opportunities. One of the things that I’m really excited about is Facebook opening up an office in Lagos, Nigeria, next year. Mark and I, and Chris Cox, our Chief Product Officer, and a couple other folks have traveled to Nigeria over the last five years, and we are blown away every single time. The entrepreneurial spirit, the talent, the tech hustle, the excitement, and the energy is nontrivial. We wanted to figure out how to give all this talent a chance. Part of our office opening will have the typical functions that exist outside of the United States for Facebook. But I also have a product team that’s going there that will hire entrepreneurs, engineers, designers, and researchers to explore and build new standalone experiences and apps with a lens on Nigeria and a lens on the African continent. Hopefully, everything we do and build there will have the potential capacity to be universal.
What Makes Entrepreneurs and Community Builders Great
You’ve seen that entrepreneurial spirit up close through your different roles. You worked with Daniel Ek when he was launching Spotify. You’ve become friends and close partners with Mark Zuckerberg. What are some of the common threads you see in these people who have taken an idea and made it really meaningful?
I’ve spent time with a ton of entrepreneurs and founders over the course of the last decade. There is probably a laundry list of common themes, but the first that pops to mind is they have a vision for the future. More often than not, their vision is positive, optimistic, and about helping people. That is their fuel.
When I met Daniel Ek and some of the early Spotify team, they wanted a better way to discover and share music. There was this innovation trend called streaming music that was going to make it possible to build some really interesting experiences.
If you were to rewind back to when I first met the Spotify team, a lot of the ideas that we had back then are getting fully realized now. We tried to do things back in a desktop world, in the desktop experience, like listening with people on Facebook chat. Technologies needed to catch up. Now we have mobile phones. Now a lot of that social integration and experience is happening inside the Spotify app. I can fire up the Spotify app, and we can listen together at the same time. Ten years have passed, and technology has changed. The kind of the solution that they were trying to put towards that problem has changed, but the problem is still there. It’s a big testament to any entrepreneur who’s focused and continues to stay at it.
I often tell people that in the 16 years Facebook has been around, we’ve changed our mission statement, but there are five words in it that have never changed: “Give people the power to.” There is always a North Star that a founder is maniacally focused on. It is the story they want to tell to the world, and they’re going to jump through hoops and break bricks in order to see that vision realized. That is always an inspiring thing to be a part of and to participate in.
Then there is a commitment to the vision. There’s a commitment to solving the problem, but a flexibility on the actual solution. That’s a large part of what I’m trying to do here in New Product Experimentation. There’s an appetite for new experiences and products. One third of the top 100 most downloaded apps every year are brand new. There’s a demand for new experiences that entrepreneurs have the opportunity to solve. Pick your area, pick your space, but the appetite is there. The question is, can the entrepreneur get the focus, the space, the time and the resources to realize that? They chip away at the problem and go down one particular path, but it may not work. They’re resolute on the fact that they’re going to try to solve that problem and not shy about pivoting when things aren’t working.
You’ve been very involved on the community building side of Facebook. What are the traits you’ve seen from community builders that have become common threads for doing it successfully?
We discovered one thing after studying the communities that were emerging across Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Messenger, over the last five years. One of the grounding forces at the center of every single community is a leader. I talk about the leaders that I have met, who have been building communities across Facebook and Instagram, as heroes because often they’re unassuming. They didn’t start off on this path of leadership. They started by solving a problem.
I met two sisters who started a Facebook Group during Hurricane Harvey to coordinate their friends and family. They wanted to make sure everyone was ok, that power was on, etc. They started with 12 of their family members, and over a couple of weeks, it turned into a group of over 100,000 people in the Texas community, coordinating relief efforts and support. These sisters were in their 20s, and now all of a sudden, they’re moderating and supporting this 100,000 person group. Their community was really dependent on the group as a communication channel in the wake of this crisis.
We want to make sure those folks are supported. What can we do as a platform to ensure that they have the tools, and the resources, often that resource is capital, in order to ensure that they can continue to build a healthy, thriving, meaningful community? As the platform, we need to figure out who is the leader amongst these groups, and take care of them.
The best community building tools are also bringing together people in real life and strengthening real life connections. How is Facebook figuring out how to help strengthen communities in real life? Where does that stand today?
I still think it’s pretty important. I’d argue that there are actually more localized conversations or communities that people have access to today then there were 10 years ago, and technology enabled a lot of that. We’ve seen that trend continue to evolve. The question is, how can you make these communities a meaningful part of people’s lives and identity? This is something I’ve been interested in, how the tech space can help people connect offline. In a world where physical proximity is being prohibited because of COVID, technology really shows up in a pretty powerful way. But I think we all believe that there’s nothing that will replace in-person relationships. So how can technology be a bridge for that?
I’ve seen the rise of more people-building tech, for when it’s safe again. There are things to do together around the dinner table, to clean up local parks, or to volunteer at food banks or shelters. That’s not just Facebook. I see other tools emerging out there to try to tackle and make that digital-to-analog bridge happen quite seamlessly. I’m pretty excited about that.
Let’s close it out on habits, tools, and resources that you use to get through your day productively. Any morning routines?
Use a dedicated alarm clock at a certain time that works for you, and as much as possible, avoiding hitting the snooze button. I use my Apple Watch to wake myself up and get started.
I see you on the Nike running app. What are your go-to apps?
Outside the Facebook family of apps, of course, I use Spotify for music, whether I’m working out or running. I’ve used the Nike app since their early integration with Facebook. It got me into running, and a decade later, I’m still using it to track my runs and make sure that I have a repository of the progress that I’m making. Sadly, I’m slowing down, but I’m still running.
Who wins in a race, you or Mark?
(laughing) He’s very competitive and a really strong runner. I actually think it depends on length these days. I probably have a good 100 pounds on him. We’re built as differently as two runners could be.
What’s on your bookshelf these days?
I’m reading a book by Bob Putnam. A lot of folks will know Robert Putnam’s book, Bowling Alone, which talks about the demise of offline communities since 1960 in the United States.
He just released another book called The Upswing. In it, he admits that in Bowling Alone he had only looked at data from 1960 to today, which shows the downfall of communities. But if you zoom back out to the early 1900s, the same issues we see today around inequality, political polarization, and other issues that make us an “I” individualistic society versus a “we” society also existed in the early 1900s. There was actually an upswing that led to 1960 where we saw collectively across America that we were more of a “we” society.
The Upswing is an examination of what changed that got us to a point in 1960 where we were way more communal as a society than we are today. Are there lessons, and tactics? Are there ideas we can start to deploy now and see if we can have another upswing?
Where can people find out about the new products coming out of your NPE group?
There’s a website (npe.fb.com) with some of the latest and greatest things that we’re building, in addition to a couple different think pieces, too. I encourage everyone to go check that out, download the apps, and play around with them. They’re experimental. We know that everything we launch isn’t going to resonate with everyone, but we are hoping to solve real people problems. We hope to build stuff that’s compelling and that matters to the world over time.
Follow Ime on Facebook and Instagram, and listen to past episodes of The Common Threads with tech leaders like Strava’s Mark Gainey; Zwift’s Eric Min; and journalists Kara Swisher and Nicholas Thompson.