Startup Life Isn’t Glamorous Like in Movies, Meta CTO Says

Estimated read time 3 min read

Meta’s chief technology officer, Andrew “Boz” Bosworth set the record straight about what startup culture is really like.

In an interview on Lenny’s Podcast, Bosworth talked about the early days of Facebook when he worked as one of its first engineers.

At the time, Bosworth said there was “tremendous camaraderie” and memories made among Facebook’s early workers. The staff ate most of their meals together and often lived within a mile of the office, he said.

But as fun as it sounds in retrospect, it wasn’t glamorous while he was going through it.

Bosworth said that most often, people hear romanticized success stories about working at a startup. People hear less about how much somebody sacrifices to be in that kind of job, the CTO said.

Bosworth said he had to give up being social or doing anything fun for a lot of his 20s. The CTO said it was probably even tougher for Mark Zuckerberg, who founded the company two years before Bosworth came on at age 19.

Andrew Bosworth and Mark Zuckerberg

Andrew “Boz” Bosworth joined Facebook in its early days.


The CTO said he didn’t eat healthy, had no hobbies, gained weight, and drank a lot. He also worked 120 hours a week and didn’t sleep more than four hours consecutively a day for two years.

Bosworth said when he was working on an anti-spam device system, he had to check the site every four hours to make sure there were no attacks. If there were, he would have to stay up and resolve the issue. If not he could go back to sleep for the next four hours, Bosworth said.

“They don’t tell you about that stuff in the movies,” Bosworth told the podcast host, Lenny Rachitsky.

As an early engineer at Facebook, there were no experts to help him, he said.

“It was just like you and like your personal car and like whatever you wanted to do with your time,” Bosworth said in the interview.

If there was an issue, he couldn’t rely on payroll, IT, or an HR department, but had to figure it out himself, as he did with the anti-spam system, Bosworth said. He now recommends that people interested in startup culture leverage their leaders as much as possible.

It worked out for Bosworth, who is now a top exec at one of the biggest tech companies in the world. But that doesn’t mean it works out for everyone, the CTO said.

“There are other people who do the exact same thing, maybe they worked harder, maybe they were smarter, maybe they did better,” Bosworth said in the podcast. “And it didn’t play out for them and it’s a big sacrifice.”

While the CTO said he loves the enthusiasm for startups and thinks it’s healthy for people to take risks, he reiterated that it definitely wasn’t glamorous while going through it.