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There's one thing that Facebook's IPO on Friday is all about: Mark Zuckerberg. Facebook's young founder and CEO has naturally garnered no shortage of attention in the recent weeks and years as the social network has ballooned to encompass nearly 13% of the world's 7 billion people. That's 901 million monthly active users, or MAUs, in the eight years since Facebook was founded in 2004.
Public companies have wildly different expectations than private ones, including much more accountability, more stringent regulatory oversight, and wider investor bases that will scrutinize each and every move, for better or for worse.
Is Zuck ready for this?
Happy Birthday, Zuck
Zuckerberg's birthday was Monday, and his birth-week gift to the world will be the public debut of a company that the investing public can't wait to get its collective hands on, for better or for worse. At 28 years young, his estimated net worth of $17.5 billion already rivals that of Amazon.com (Nasdaq: AMZN ) CEO and founder Jeff Bezos with $18.4 billion at age 48 and tops Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) CEO Steve Ballmer with $15.7 billion at age 56.
He started Facebook when he was 19. For context, Steve Jobs was 21 when he founded Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL ) and Bill Gates was also 19 when he founded Microsoft. That makes Sergey Brin and Larry Page look old and gray, since both of them were 25 when they founded Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) .
Allow me to introduce myself to... myself
Not only are potential investors trusting Zuckerberg's ability to lead the social butterfly to riches as its CEO, but they also must trust his judgment on other matters since he will still hold 57.3% of the voting power after the IPO.
This makes Facebook a "controlled company" under the corporate governance rules for Nasdaq-listed companies, which eliminates the requirement that a majority of the board be independent directors as well as the requirement to have an independent nominating function. That means the board is the one responsible for nominating... the board.
Much ado about hoodie
Amid the media frenzy over the past week and Facebook's investor road show, some outlets have focused on Zuck's chosen attire of a casual hoodie. Wedbush analyst Michael Pachter has been among the more vocal critics, calling his hoodie a "mark of immaturity," adding that Zuckerberg should show more respect to the investors he's trying to earn.
To capitalize on the controversy, apparel maker Betabrand has even released an "executive hoodie" that is like a pinstripe suit jacket combined with a hoodie.
The wardrobe choice is undoubtedly Zuckerberg's homage to his idol and mentor Steve Jobs, who began donning his casual trademark black turtleneck and jeans at public appearances in the late '90s. The hoodie shows that Zuckerberg doesn't answer to anyone, also much like Jobs.
Investors are going to want Zuckerberg to show that he can put up numbers, in which case they won't care what he wears. Jobs steered Apple from near bankruptcy to become the largest company in the world by market cap, so he could have gallivanted around in his underwear without consequence because he delivered where it counts.
If Zuckerberg can do the same with Facebook's fate in the coming years, all this hoodie talk will quickly fade into the background.
The toughest balancing act
Zuckerberg will be tasked with balancing the pressures from advertisers that want to get in front of the eyes of all those users while keeping all those users happy without cheapening the feel of the site with overly obnoxious ads, all under the watchful eye of the Street.
That's a lot of weight on one young man's shoulders, and just like my Uncle Ben used to tell me: "With great power comes great responsibility." Investors must trust that Zuck is up to the task.
This all underscores so much of the uncertainty surrounding Facebook, making some people question its worth as an investment. Our senior technology analyst certainly agrees. In fact, he thinks there's a much better opportunity in the social media industry. He details it in our most recent free research report. To find out about this game-changing growth story, just click here to access your copy today.