To budding Internet entrepreneurs, May 18, 2012 was an historic milestone, when a 28 year-old programmer who started a website in his college dorm room launched the largest NASDAQ IPO in Internet history and became the leader of a hundred billion-dollar operation. For investors, May 18, 2012 was the Friday when Facebook (FB) fell flat, and the trading day when another super hyped IPO barely lived up to its expectations.
One of my friends called me last week to tell me that she had the opportunity to invest in the Facebook IPO and asked me what I thought about it. My immediate response was that the greatest concern about being invested in Facebook would be that you are invested in its leader. And to me that is a risky investment.
It's not that I have any empirical evidence that Mark Zuckerberg is a bad leader or a bad person. It's just that I don't have any empirical evidence that he's a good leader or a good person. If I believed what I saw in The Social Network movie, my concerns would quickly become serious concerns. My common sense tells me that The Social Network was a screenplay, not a documentary, but in the absence of much concrete evidence to the contrary, it's easy to wonder how much of what we saw on the theater screen was true.
For a man who founded a company that has taken transparency to a frightening level, we don't see Zuckerberg fully embracing his own transparency paradigm. In the 8 years that the social media network he created has existed, he's posted less than 100 photos on Facebook. He updates his own personal Facebook profile page about once a month. His latest updated posted on May 18, 2012 was "Mark Zuckerberg listed a company on NASDAQ. -- with Chris Cox and 4 others." The fact that he had nothing to say about what he thought or felt about the historic event to his 13 million subscribers leads me to wonder if he buys into the power or understands the potential of his own social media creation.
Just below Zuckerberg's NASDAQ update is a two sentence blurb about Facebook, including the Facebook mission statement. The last part of the last sentence of that blurb says that people use Facebook "to share and express what matters to them." That's exactly what I want to know about Mark Zuckerberg, and that's exactly what he hasn't revealed about himself to the world. It's not that the founder and CEO of the world's most active social media network is expected to tell us what he's having for lunch every day, but it is expected that he would want to share in a much more personal way than he has.
Compare Mark Zuckerberg's use of social media to someone like Zappos (AMZN) founder and CEO, Tony Hsieh, whose social media tool of choice is Twitter. Admittedly Tony's Twitter activity has dropped off dramatically in 2012, but prior to that he was the corporate king of Twitter. When Hsieh tweets quotes, photos, magazine articles, riddles, jokes, and helpful advice about not leaving canned soda in the car in the summer heat, he is "sharing and expressing what matters to him." If his tweeting is sincere (and Hsieh's reputation is built on a foundation of sincerity), then we know much about the heart, character, and intentions of the man who is leading the Zappos team. That is something I personally wouldn't hesitate to invest in.
While it is no small accomplishment to launch the biggest IPO in Internet history, now that his company is public, it's time for Mark Zuckerberg to become public too. Before the investment community is going to feel completely comfortable with investing in a company that has a long way to go to live up to its $104 billion valuation, it's going to need to feel completely comfortable with the person who's leading the company towards fulfilling its potential. It's time for Mark Zuckerberg to take some of that transparency that he's involuntarily created for 901 million Facebook users, and voluntarily participate in it himself.