Photo: Andrew Feinberg via Flickr
Salesforce.com Founder and CEO Marc Benioff wrote — on Facebook, no less — that Facebook is “already a public company. It’s just unregulated.” (It’s in this morning’s dead tree Journal, but we haven’t found a link.) Benioff says there are now “thousands” of investors in Facebook, and it’s in effect a public company.We’re not sure where Benioff gets the “thousands” figure (maybe he’s one of them!). Facebook got an exemption from the SEC’s 500 shareholder rule, but now it’s (potentially) in hot water with the SEC over its latest funding round, which would allow many more people to buy Facebook stock, but do it through an investment vehicle controlled by Goldman Sachs, which would therefore (possibly, technically) count as only one investor.
Facebook got the earlier exemption to keep hiring, so it’s not certain whether it applies only to stock given to employees, or whatever. Since 2007, Facebook employees get restricted stock units, which are different from stock.
We’re not sure what prompted Benioff’s comment. The public markets have been very kind to Salesforce, pushing its valuation to the stratosphere, so maybe it’s a bit of friendly advice to Zuckerberg that going public is not such a big deal. And we’re not sure what he says by “unregulated” — Facebook is regulated in the same way as every other private company.