We’d all like to face Mark Zuckerberg’s crisis. It’s worth billions upon billions. But it is a crisis — and how he and his advisors manage the crisis will write the next chapter in this extraordinary phenomenon we call Facebook.
The New York Times on Sunday wrote about this coming change in how the world regards Facebook after its public offering this week. Wall Street doesn’t get gauzy about a fun idea hatched in a dorm room. Make money or be gone.
Think Wright Brothers to Boeing; Alexander Graham Bell to AT&T; Thomas Edison to General Electric; Jonas Salk to Big Pharma; Henrietta Lacks to the National Institutes of Health; John Glenn to NASA. Without the individual the collective wouldn’t exist. But without the end product, the individual is just a good idea. The proof is in the transition.
Great inventions don’t always make great businesses. And those who have the Aha moment idea and develop that to a valuation of possibly $86 billion are not always equipped to manage something that awesome.
Facebook’s value resides in the amount of data we all share about ourselves. The challenge is to turn that intrinsic, invented value — manned flight, electric light, voice communication, life-saving vaccines, the human genome — into advertising. How does Facebook monetize that value — and keep doing so for the next 25 or 100 years?
The light bulb went on, but how to produce them by the millions for lamps not yet equipped to plug in? The phone call went through to Mr. Watson, but no wires or telephones existed yet to carry voices. The plane got off the ground at Kitty Hawk, but who would build more planes, and runways and airports?
“They are going to have to think about whether they can continue with the motto ‘Done is better than perfect,’ ” said Susan Etlinger, an industry analyst at the Altimeter Group, told the Times about Facebook. “When you’re operating as a public company, life is very different. We haven’t seen that play out yet. It’s going to take a few quarters to figure out what a public Facebook is going to look like.”
Zuckerberg and his family, friends and early backers will become fabulously rich this week. Yet from what little we’ve learned about the man [how ironic, right?] we know that success drives him. Who wants to be a 28-year-old has-been, however rich?
He wants to see FB reach the heights of Apple and Google, not end up a fly on the windshield of accelerated internet startups.
He’s in crisis right now, one that his $18 billion share won’t solve.