Friday, August 21, 2009

Sheryl Sandberg ideals are driving a dizzying expansion of facebook

Sheryl Sandberg turns 40 this summer and has more reason than most to feel conscious of the milestone. Her colleagues at Facebook, where she is chief operating officer, are all bright young techies, and her boss, Mark Zuckerberg, is only 25.

"I remember before the internet…," Sandberg says on a visit to the firm's modest London office in Soho Square. "When you say that in our headquarters, everyone kinda looks at you like, 'Did they have cars?'"

Not that Sandberg has lost any of the fire of youth: bright and vivacious, the former Google executive bubbles with the kind of evangelical enthusiasm you might expect from someone running what has become the world's leading social networking site, pulling away from rivals such as MySpace, part of Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, and the AOL-owned Bebo.

And while she plays down any suggestions of triumphalism, she does not hold back when it comes to the Californian company's global ambitions. "I think we think we're trying to change the world and having some success with that," she says. "We have really big aspirations around making the world a more open and transparent place. We define our aspirations more in terms of that mission than in terms of the company aspirations."

The way Facebook is doing that may not be apparent to its British devotees, who generally use the site to upload photos and share news and banter with their friends and acquaintances.

But outside the narcissistic west, Facebook claims to be a 21st-century torchbearer for democratic values. Like its upstart rival Twitter, it played a role in giving vent to political dissent in Iran after June's disputed elections, and has faced intermittent jamming as a result.

Sandberg also points to examples closer to home of Facebook's power to connect people. She herself was contacted through the site by a long-lost college "little sister", who had no idea her former mentor was its chief operating officer. "Finding my 'little sister' to me was profound. That's the stuff we are really ambitious about."

Rise of Twitter

But Facebook is a business, not a philanthropic exercise, and it has been growing with dizzying speed since Zuckerberg launched it from his Harvard dorm room in 2004.

The site hit 200 million registered users in April, of whom 18 million are in Britain. When Sandberg arrived from Google in March 2008, it was half that and still behind MySpace. The latter has been faltering of late and has had to cut jobs as a result, while Bebo is struggling too, and Friends Reunited – sold by ITV this month for £25m – is practically moribund.

It all looks very encouraging for Facebook, and Sandberg is keen to point out that half of users come back to the site every day. "On consumer internet I have never seen or heard of anything like it."

But the world of social networking is still in its infancy and users can be fickle. The rise of Twitter, the sector's phenomenon of the moment, has posed a challenge. Rumour has it that Facebook tried to buy the upstart for $500m; whether or not that was the case, it last week succeeded in snapping up another potential rival when it paid $50m (£30m) for FriendFeed, a tiny Silicon Valley start-up. And who knows what might come along next year?

"We understand that we are not going to be the only property doing these things, and to the extent that there are properties like Twitter who are showing the world how important this is, we are happy to see that," Sandberg says. "What Twitter is doing is a very specific thing, which is short updates in real time, and so that's obviously very important, much as our status updates are very important to us."

Sandberg is unconvinced by the idea that social networking will conform to the "winner takes all" pattern that has seen Google, Amazon, YouTube and Wikipedia end up as dominant players in their respective areas.

"We think our growth is based on the fact that we provide the best product," she explains. "What you'll see from us is a real commitment to being a technology-led company.

"[We're] trying to put out the very best technology in the world, which enables people to share with all the privacy controls they want – I think we are by far the leader in that area worldwide – and as efficiently as possible. That doesn't mean there isn't room for other players and we won't see others, but we're happy that we think we have executed pretty well and we want to continue to do better."

She dismisses the idea that Facebook might be undercut by a similar product run, Wikipedia-style, on a not-for-profit basis. "Wikipedia is very inexpensive for two reasons. One, the technology's not doing the algorithmic stuff; you do a search and it's given you that search. And the second is that it's edited for free by the world ... The technology underlying Facebook is very expensive and more similar to Google-like technology than it is to Wikipedia."

Which brings the conversation to the thorny question of whether Facebook is able to convert its undeniably huge reach into sustainable profitability. Sandberg says the company has been profitable for six quarters before interest and tax, and is close to being cashflow profitable in 2010. Zuckerberg has also said that revenues will grow 70% this year – but no one outside the company knows the numbers. Some suggest revenues of $500m this year.

The recent investment of $200m by the Russian company Digital Sky Technologies – giving it a 2% stake and implying a total valuation of $10bn – should not be taken as a sign that Facebook needed any cash, Sandberg says. "You raise money when you can, not when you need it," she says, invoking a mantra she learned at Harvard Business School. "This just gives us a little bit more flexibility." Nor are there plans to go public "any time soon".

Microsoft also owns a 1.6% stake, for which it paid $240m in October 2007, but Facebook has resisted all moves to buy it out.

The company's business model is straightforward, says Sandberg: it's advertising. Although it is working on other revenue streams, such as allowing transactions involving the third-party applications on the site, advertising is sufficient to build revenues, she says. And to work, the ads have to be subtle. "This is not a property where we let advertisers walk up to users. This is a property where we invite advertisers to invite users to interact with them."

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Thursday, February 19, 2009

From Chunk To Hunk.

Former overweight, fat guy David Smith has gone from chunk to hunk.

After losing a whopping 29 stone (403 pounds) and having more than 30lbs of excess skin removed.

The 31-year-old used to tip the scales at 45 stone - the same as a brown bear or a young bison - and was dangerously close to eating himself to death. He said that he used to weigh 630 pounds and that he was so fat that he had to be weighed at a local garage on scales normally used for cars and trucks’

David, from Phoenix, Arizona, befriended local radio DJ and fitness instructor Chris Powell in 2003, in the nick of time who coached him through a grueling two year long exercise regime. He has now started dating and is waiting for the right girl to come forward

Chris says that in June of 2003, he was contacted by a ‘Good Morning Arizona’ viewer asking for help. His name was David Smith. He weighed 630 pounds and was given only about 4 more years left to live. At first, Chris just wanted to sit down and talk to him. Chris knew that he could change his body, but he needed to see if David was ready to make the change in his lifestyle. Within 10 minutes of talking to David, Chris knew that he would devote the next couple years of his life to changing David.

Basically Chris came to understand that David was never given a chance in life and had no one to teach him or no one to believe in him. So he drove out to his house every other day for a year and a half to work with him.

For the first month they focused on nutrition…because once you understand nutrition, you understand how to control the body. Chris taught him food combinations, meal timing, and how to portion foods to maximize results. To make sure that his program was successful, it had to be enjoyable and easy, Chris gave him cheat days every other day to look forward to, and began the phases of The Carb Cycle Solution - first resetting his metabolism, then moving through the phases to maximize weight loss. Whenever his weight loss plateaued, they would simply reset his metabolism and cycle him through the phases again, until he reached his goal weight.

As David lost weight, he began to turn his life around. No sooner he could fit into a car, he got his driver’s license, received his GED, and got his first job. He began working at a gym and studying to become a personal trainer to ‘pay it forward’ to help others in need. As he began spending more time at work, Chris needed to find a way to help him control his nutrition outside of the house. So he made a containerized system for him to carry, portion, and time his meals at work – and so the concept of the STAX Nutrition System was born.

Determined David managed to slim down to a healthy 16 stone thanks to the tough training but was left with unsightly flabby skin. That meant he had to endure four separate operations in just 12 months to remove all his previous bulk.

He also needed laser surgery on his eyes and some dental work to fix his teeth, which had destroyed by too much sweets and fizzy drinks.

Now the fatty turned fitty has got rid of his double chins, man boobs, and bursting gut and replaced them with bulging biceps, toned pecs and a flat stomach.

As a result, he has now become a FITNESS COACH himself and bagged himself his first girlfriend.

David says that he was written off by everyone, even myself, but all of a sudden he woke up from deep despair and realized that feeling sorry about his life wasn’t going to solve his problems. So, he decided to change his existence and started exercising.

Now he is a completely different person, not just physically but mentally too.

David Today

He has now lost 401 pounds in 26 months and all of that naturally.

The first few months were really hard, and the training was really tough. He had struggled to walk five feet without becoming out of breath. He slowly got better until the flab was literally falling off me. But then after working so hard to lose weight, he was left with all this excess skin which made me look ridiculous. He had to undergo four operations in a year to get rid of it all. It's not the nicest thing going under the knife but it was something that had to be done. Then, his teeth began to rot because of all the sugar from sweets and the fizzy drinks I consumed and so he had to have his teeth capped at the dentists.

He has been called a lot of things lately, but it has all been positive for the first time in his life. He has even actually overheard girls say that he is kind of cute a couple of times. His skin is now gone and he feels like his life is finally ready to begin. Now since he has started dating for the first time, people take his photo because they think that he is hot rather than comically obese.

He says that he might be the oldest person in the world to be a virgin, or never been on a date, or never had a first kiss. He knows his perfect woman is out there somewhere and he has done all this for her and for their children, and their children's children.

Fitness guru Chris Powell, who has appeared in the magazine Cosmo said that David was basically dead inside but now he is really living life and inspiring millions of people - it is indescribable. You will see what an incredibly wonderful person he is, how he overcame his obstacles…and why he is my best friend.

Chris is like a brother to me. He never gave up on me. He has not only saved my life, he has taught me a lot about this new world. We go out on the weekends, see movies, and get a bite to eat, or just hang out. Our friendship has blossomed out of something so barren, that it is incredible how it has happened. We are two unlikely best friends - its so funny how life works. He made me feel like a human even when the outside world thought not.

Not only has my life changed, but I’ve inspired others as well…and hopefully many more to follow. It has been amazing watching the events of a path in the road that I would have never chosen. Chris always says that David has changed his life more than he changed mine. Either way, we are going to be best friends forever.

Throughout the process, we became the best of friends. It is now our vision to educate, motivate, and inspire anyone and everyone that the human body is an amazing machine that can be transformed through nutrition and exercise.

Now he hopes to inspire children and adults in Britain that there is a way back from obesity.