Facebook will go public. The only questions in my mind are "when?" and "at what valuation?"
The latest piece of that puzzle to fall into place is the escalating business-world connections of COO Sheryl Sandberg. She joined Facebook last year after a high-profile, seven-year career at Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) . Now, she's a director in the Seattle area.
No, not at Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT ) , as rich as that ironic career arc would be -- and as much sense as it'd make. Mr. Softy already has a cushy relationship with Facebook, and that company would surely love to have unfettered access to the Google-riffic information in Sandberg's brain. Nope, she joined the board of directors for Starbucks (Nasdaq: SBUX ) after the coffee chain's annual meeting.
As COO of Facebook, Sandberg is vital to that company's day-to-day success and future direction. At Starbucks board meetings, she gets to rub shoulders with luminaries such as J.C. Penney (NYSE: JCP ) CEO Myron Ullman, fellow freshly anointed director and Juniper Networks (Nasdaq: JNPR ) CEO Kevin Johnson, and U.S. Senator and NBA hall-of-famer Bill Bradley.
Whenever you put such an eclectic and brainy group in the same room as a proven information sponge like Sandberg, you have to expect sparks to start flying. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg probably didn't exactly plan for Starbucks to elect one of Facebook's top minds into its inner circle, but I'll bet he celebrated the occasion in style.
It is tempting to dismiss Facebook, Twitter, and other fresh-faced tech startups as geek collectives without business savvy. But think again. Zuckerberg studied computer science in college, but he did it at Harvard and made plenty of high-powered connections in the prestigious Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity. Though Sandburg finished school a decade before Zuckerberg, she is a fellow Crimson. Seven out of the 12 executives with biographies in Facebook's press room have Harvard degrees. Many of them come from the law or business schools.
Given Facebook's runaway success and this surprisingly business-oriented executive backdrop, I don't see how the company can stay private much longer. If it weren't for this lengthy bear market and its chilling effect on the IPO market, I think that Facebook would have gone public already. Now the company is just biding its time. And when the stock goes live, we're talking about a big splash.