New York Magazine was kind enough to ask me to write a big story on Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook to celebrate the company’s long-awaited IPO.
The story’s out now, and you can read it here.
Here are some key points:
- Most people still think of Mark Zuckerberg as a sort of an idiot-savant — a lucky kid who was in the right place at the right time and then won a $25 billion lottery (that’s about how much his stake in Facebook is worth).
- Zuckerberg was certainly lucky and in the right place at the right time, but this view of him sells him massively short.
- The reason Facebook is where it is today–a company whose product is used by 1/8th of the world’s population–is not just that Zuckerberg saw a huge opportunity and went after it (lots of entrepreneurs do that). It’s that Zuckerberg quickly dedicated himself to learning what he didn’t know, which was how to be a great CEO.
- This was a painful process, and it wasn’t easy for him. As gifted as he was as a programmer and product designer, he wasn’t a good communicator and he had no idea how to hire people, fire people, or lead a company.
- But Zuckerberg learned how to do those things. And the skills he has amassed, combined with his product genius and commitment to his long-term vision, now make him one of the best CEOs in the industry.
- Zuckerberg’s commitment to this vision at the expense of more mundane concerns, meanwhile (say, the stock price) is likely to drive most of Wall Street insane. Even more than Jeff Bezos, the other great visionary CEO who pays no attention to the near-term demands of impatient shareholders, Zuckerberg views Facebook’s business as existing to fund its product development, not the other way around. On Wall Street, needless to say, this view is considered treasonous.
- But Zuckerberg’s control over the company is so total–he owns 57% of the voting stock–that if Wall Street doesn’t like it, Wall Street is just going to have to stuff it.
- And, by the way, Zuckerberg’s view of his company’s priorities is a much healthier one than that of most CEOs, who care first and foremost about delivering “shareholder value.” Great companies create a lot more than “shareholder value.” They create societal value. And if shareholders have to suffer in the short term so the company can create more societal value down the road, then so be it. The country and the world would be better off if more companies saw the world the way Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg see it.
I’m always amazed by how much of a collaborative effort magazines are, and this story was improved enormously by the editing and research by James Burnett, Adam Moss, Thayer McClanahan, and the rest of the team at New York. Anything you don’t like about it, meanwhile, you can blame on me.
We’ll be posting some excerpts and outtakes of the article here this week, as well as an ebook that includes a bunch more material.
(And look out, Facebook investors–the company has now officially been hit with the “cover jinx.”)
Thanks in advance for reading. Look forward to hearing your thoughts.