Play time is over. It’s time to get down to business.
That’s the semi-embraced mantra at Facebook, depending on who you talk to. The alternate mantra being felt in the Facebook underground is about how to keep the party going and still cash in. Publicly, CEO Mark Zuckerberg is in the first camp, but most people can tell by his actions as well as by reading between the line through some of his statements that his heart is with the second camp.
It could be argued that Facebook is where it is because it was built with the idea that revenue was an engine for innovation, not the other way around. They have become the second-most-powerful online entity in the world by following this concept, but power isn’t going to pay the dividends. For Facebook to be truly successful post-IPO, they will have to get serious.
They cannot get serious with Mark “Hoodieman” Zuckerberg at the helm. The challenge is that they wouldn’t be where they are today without Mark “AwkwardGenius” Zuckerberg at the helm.
The only safe play to keep the ball rolling but to gear towards publicly-traded big business is to replace him. Slowly. Those who are worried about the “Mark of Immaturity” will not invest and that’s a problem. It means that the majority of investors will be quick in, quick out artists who want to ride the roller coaster and bail out at the top. This will not make for Google-esque IPO. It won’t even make for a larger LinkedIn-esque IPO. It may look more like Zynga or Groupon, which the company does not want.
If they were to come out and say that once the IPO is launched, that the first (or second, or third… no rush) order of business is to find the next CEO while moving Zuckerberg to some creative function within the company and still giving him control of the voting shares and the board, they would ease the minds of many of the skeptics. The IPO would be a huge success either way, but this would give them the stability to lure in more conservative, long-term investors. That’s what they need the most.
The real question is whether or not Zuckerberg’s ego (which is often understated) and emotional attachment to the company would prohibit it.