The side projects of Mark Zuckerberg, from building a nightlight and a robot to his new podcast

mark zuckerbergDavid Ramos/Getty Images

  • Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said he dedicates the time not spent running his multi-billion dollar company to explore hobbies and interests through projects.
  • From creating a specialized alarm clock for his wife to making an AI robot for his home, Zuckerberg's projects are usually innovative and interesting.
  • Zuckerberg's most recent endeavor is a podcast about the future of technology where he hosts debates with an array of academics.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

Despite running a massive company, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg always has a side hustle.

These side gigs have ranged from recent home improvement projects - including building a "sleep box" and an AI robot - to the side project that, according to TechCrunch, "almost killed Facebook."

Read more: How Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg uses New Year's Resolutions to improve himself

Zuckerberg has said in the past that he's always felt strongly about having side projects and even noted how important it is to have extracurricular hobbies in a Q&A in 2017.

"I probably learned more coding from random side projects than I did than the courses I took in college," Zuckerberg told Entrepreneur magazine.

Additional projects of the Facebook CEO have included learning a second language, reading more books, and traveling to meet people from all 50 states.

Keep reading for a look at Mark Zuckerberg's side projects.

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Zuckerberg's first endeavor was a music recommendation platform called Synapse.

Zuckerberg's first endeavor was a music recommendation platform called Synapse.

Zuckerberg has been working on side projects since he was in middle school, when he developed a basic messaging system that allowed computers in his home to communicate with each other.

As a high schooler, Zuckerberg explored an even more ambitious side project, a music platform called Synapse.

"As students at Phillips Exeter Academy, Zuckerberg and friend Adam D'Angelo created an MP3 player that would keep track of every song the user played on a computer and, as it learned what the user liked, would begin to make playlists," the Harvard Crimson wrote in 2003.

According to the Crimson, Zuckerberg said he and D'Angelo were offered nearly $1 million for Synapse, but they turned it down.

"One of the companies offered us $950,000 but wanted us to go work for them for three years," Zuckerberg told the Crimson. "We wanted to go to college, so we said no."

The future CEO added that they wanted to keep the platform free for users.

Read more: The first jobs of 14 of the biggest tech executives

One of Zuckerberg's side projects, a file-sharing project called Wirehog, "almost killed Facebook."

One of Zuckerberg's side projects, a file-sharing project called Wirehog, "almost killed Facebook."

While Synapse was just a precursor to Facebook's success, another side project called Wirehog nearly stopped Facebook before it even began TechCrunch reporter MG Siegler wrote.

TechCrunch reported that the service functioned as a "peer-to-peer file-sharing service that hooked up to Facebook," working on top of the social media platform. Early Facebook president Sean Parker stated that the service was actually illegal, and therefore a good thing the project was halted in early 2006.

"I had seen that movie before. We would have killed the baby in the cradle," he said.

The Facebook CEO also built an innovative alarm clock to help his wife sleep better.

The Facebook CEO also built an innovative alarm clock to help his wife sleep better.

Zuckerberg's side projects have focused on not just self-improvement, but also home improvement. Both Quartz and CNBC reported on Zuckerberg creating a screen-free "sleep box" for his wife Priscilla Chan.

"Being a mom is hard, and since we've had kids, Priscilla has had a hard time sleeping through the night. She'll wake up and check the time on her phone to see if the kids might wake up soon, but then knowing the time stresses her out and she can't fall back asleep," Zuckerberg said in a Facebook and Instagram post.

"It sits on her nightstand, and between the hours of 6 to 7 a.m. it emits a very faint light — visible enough that if she sees it she'll know it's an okay time for one of us to get the kids, but faint enough that the light won't wake her up if she's still sleeping," Zuckerberg continued. "And since it doesn't show the time, if she wakes up in the middle of the night, she knows to just go back to sleep without having to worry about what time it is. So far this has worked better than I expected and she can now sleep through the night."

The product ended up on Kickstarter this July, and raised over $100,000 within a month — "more than 21 times its $5,000 goal," according to CNBC.

As a slightly larger home improvement project, Zuckerberg built an artificial intelligence robot in 2016.

As a slightly larger home improvement project, Zuckerberg built an artificial intelligence robot in 2016.

Another — and much more extensive — project consisted of building an AI robot. According to The Observer, its functions included "recognizing his friends' faces at the door and monitoring activities in his daughter's room."

This was the same year Zuckerberg also pledged to run 365 miles, dedicating time not spent running his company to running outdoors.

Zuckerberg spent much of 2017 accomplishing another side goal: Meeting people from every state, which required traveling to locations he had never been before.

Zuckerberg spent much of 2017 accomplishing another side goal: Meeting people from every state, which required traveling to locations he had never been before.

Silicon Valley Business Journal reported that Zuckerberg made a goal to visit people from all 50 states. This included a variety of cities, towns, and college campuses, as well as Facebook offices across the country. By May of that year, he had already visited 20 states.

The CEO also had a similar goal in 2013 — "to meet someone new everyday outside Facebook."

Some observers questioned whether Zuckerberg's well-documented trips across the US were part of a potential future presidential bid, although Zuckerberg never addressed the rumors.

Zuckerberg's latest side project is launching a podcast series called 'Tech and Society.'

Zuckerberg's latest side project is launching a podcast series called 'Tech and Society.'

Zuckerberg's latest non-Facebook venture is a podcast called "Tech & Society." The show has four episodes thus far, and the CEO has spoken with Harvard Professors Jonathan Zittrain, Jenny Martinez, and Noah Feldman, Axel Springer's Mathias Döpfner, and historian Yuval Noah Harari.

Topics broached in the podcast have included law, journalism, privacy, democracy, and governance — critical topics in light of Facebook's clashes with Congress last year.

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