The internet has been ablaze over the last 24 hours because Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wore a hoodie on stage during his company’s first IPO roadshow. In doing so one Wall Street analyst wrote that his choice in clothing was a glaring “mark of immaturity.” In fact Michael Pachter of Wedbush Securities claims “He’s actually showing investors he doesn’t care that much” while continuing “…and I think he’s got to show them the respect that they deserve because he’s asking them for their money.” That sentiment appears to be shared among many of Wall Streets more staunch driven investors.
Let us be clear about something, Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t care about investors and quite frankly he doesn’t have to. Zuckerberg has made it clear from day one that his main focus in creating the best possible product his company can develop and he has only used investor money to create liquidity for his employees. If Facebook wants to maintain the most elite programmers in the industry it needs to incentive them, which is the only reason Zuckerberg with his 57% control of the social networking giant is allowing the IPO to move forward in the first place.
If Zuckerberg could find several hundred top notch programmers who could care less about living in mansions and driving around in Ferrari’s he would happily cover server and basic salary costs with the company’s already impressive profits and carry-on his way. This is after all the man who as a teenager turned down millions of dollars from Microsoft for a prediction algorithm he created, only to later release it for free on the internet and then turn down a job offer from Microsoft’s top brass.
More importantly, Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t need to be associated with “suits” as they are often referred to. Remember what happened to MySpace when it went corporate? Nearly $600 million was flushed down the drain as its employees became nothing more than the corporate drones music and comedy fans and million of internet users despise. Facebook has most certainly surpassed the “cool” stage and has become ingrained in our everyday lives, but that doesn’t mean it can give up its laid back, we are here to create cool products feel for a suit and a tie. The moment Zuckerberg puts on a tie and stands on stage is the moment he might as well publicly admit to Facebook users he has commoditized them. Sure we know we have been sold out, the open graph proved that point by collecting heaps of user data, but admitting to that fact might be worse than the illusion of creating a more “open” web.
Most important however is the fact that Mark Zuckerberg isn’t going to have a hard time finding investors, Facebook has done very well on the secondary market, partially because even with all of his control over Facebook and his seemingly quick decision to buy Instagram, Mark Zuckerberg has a well rounded team working under his control. Not only does Facebook’s board of directors include some of the biggest names in the tech industry, it also has the support of the biggest, most well known tech investors in the world. Its hard to argue the reach of a tech firm when its board of directors includes Marc Andreessen, James W. Breyer, Peter A. Thiel and even Netflix chairman and CEO Reed Hastings.
What is likely irking investors isn’t the hoodie, it is the fact that Zuckerberg has always made one thing clear, he care about his product, earnings, return on investment and other matters simply are not important to him, at least not on the surface.
Remember when investors said five years ago that Mark Zuckerberg would drive Facebook into the ground? I wonder what they think now that the company is nearing 1 billion users, now owns one of the most popular photo sharing applications in the world and has become synonymous with website sharing thanks to like/share buttons and the Facebook Open Graph?
Could Zuckerberg have thrown on a nice button down shirt, sure he could have, but let’s be honest there are not many company’s serving one billion users these days and none of them are as engaged with their client base as Facebook.
Lest we forget, Zuckerberg is famous for creating hackathons, late night programming marathons littered with booze and for relentlessly pushing his vision of the open web onto hundreds of millions of people, the moment he fails to be Mark Zuckerberg is the moment Facebook loses the intensity it has used to grow.
It’s a hoodie, he’s comfortable in it and his business decisions have been good for Facebook for years now, get over it and move on, perhaps if you hate the hoodie an investment in a Exxon Mobil would be more up your alley.
I would love to be the PR person at Facebook just for one day so I could respond to crazy complaints over non-issues.