Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says he’s not running for president, but a recent nationwide tour has been stoking speculation.
In the past few months, Zuckerberg has visited military bases, dined with “folks” in Ohio, and has even been photographed working on the assembly line of a Ford factory — stuff people usually do when they’re starting a political campaign.
So, he’s running, right? Not so fast, says Nathan Hubbard, former CEO of Ticketmaster. In a widely shared tweetstorm over the weekend, he laid out another possible reason why Zuckerberg is criss-crossing the country and looking like a political candidate.
Basically, Hubbard says, Zuckerberg is acting like the product-focused CEO he is. Hubbard believes Zuckerberg initially didn’t understand Facebook’s role in last year’s election and the political discourse, and now he’s trying to understand — as a product guy — how Facebook may have contributed to President Donald Trump’s election.
Hubbard has a lot of respect for Zuckerberg and Facebook, at one point calling some of Facebook’s moves “probably the greatest biz execution of our generation.”
Zuckerberg’s staff on this tour is largely composed of former political operatives, Business Insider previously reported, and one of his favourite topics with people he meets is how they use Facebook.
Hubbard makes several interesting points, and it speaks to how the role of a tech CEO with billions of users now tends to look a lot like a statesman or a politician. He closes out his tweetstorm with “#sheryl2020,” joking that Zuckerberg’s second in command, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg, might end up being a better presidential candidate.
Here’s Hubbard’s argument in paragraph form:
“Zuck isn’t running for President. He’s trying to understand the role the product he created played in getting this one elected. Facebook has undergone two major evolutionary events in its history, both of which were driven by what Zuck saw as existential threats. The incredible revenue growth in mobile (probably the greatest biz execution of our generation) helped Facebook survive a platform shift. And the fearless acquisitive streak of Instagram, WhatsApp and others helped Facebook survive a shift in how we communicate and organise.
“Zuck woke up on Nov 9th acutely aware that FB had facilitated a new shift he didn’t foresee or understand; that’s terrifying to a founder. He’s the head of product. So he’s ventured out into the world beyond his bubble to do field research and inform how FB will evolve again. Yes, these pictures we are seeing of Zuck meeting people look like outtakes from Forrest Gump meets The 40 Year Old Virgin…
“And for those reasons it’s silly to assign him Presidential aspirations. He has very few of the skills we’ve just seen it takes to win. He does, however, have a ruthless survival instinct combined with a boundless desire to learn. That’s how he got here, folks. We have rightly vilified founders of late who could not personally learn, grow and evolve to lead their companies and products forward. So I admire a founder who, however Machiavellian, cares enough to understand the people using the platform he created. #Sheryl2020”
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