Board to Zuckerberg: Say “Mobile” By: Mark Rogers
As part of BoardProspects’ official launch last week, we attended TechCrunch Disrupt 2012 in San Francisco. The Conference brings together leaders from all over the technology industry, including Reid Hoffman (LinkedIn), Tim Armstrong (AOL), Marissa Mayer (Yahoo), and Jack Dorsey (Twitter). However, the most anticipated appearance at the conference was Mark Zuckerberg’s. It was the first appearance by Facebook’s CEO and Founder since the company’s disastrous IPO. Zuckerberg spoke for about a half-hour to the packed audience in an interview setting with TechCrunch Founder Michael Arrington. Although he touched on a number of different issues during the interview, his primary focus was to keep saying the word “mobile” over and over again – try 17 times over the course of 32 minutes. It is clear that despite Zuckerberg’s control over the company, his board of directors is now driving the strategy and overall direction.
Up until now, it seemed that Facebook’s Board of Directors served as nothing more than a minor distraction for Zuckerberg, highlighted by the occasional news story. Several months ago, Facebook made news with the appointment of the company’s COO, Sheryl Sandberg, to the board (http://tinyurl.com/8aju7fc). She was the first female board member for the company – an oddity by itself, made even more strange considering its large female customer base (57percent of Facebook’s users are female). Facebook’s Board of Directors has come under increased public scrutiny lately after it was determined that Facebook board member and its first investor, Peter Thiel, has sold most of his shares in Facebook since the IPO (http://tinyurl.com/9udg93l). Many observers believe that Thiel should no longer serve on the board considering his significant divestment.
Again, these issues with the board do not appear to have been a major problem for Zuckerberg or Facebook. Zuckerberg has always seemed resolute in his mission to make the world more open, and his board has always seemed more than happy to follow along in step on this journey. But a funny thing happened on the way to creating a utopia of openness on the web – an IPO that was recently tabbed by Bloomberg as the “worst performing IPO ever” for a large company. The Zuckerberg on stage last week at TechCrunch was not the Zuckerberg of 5 years ago (or even 6 months ago). This was nothing more than Zuckerberg acting as a mouthpiece for the Facebook board, who had clearly directed Zuckerberg to enforce their mobile strategy – the lack of which appears to have been the driving factor in the lackluster IPO performance.
By all accounts Zuckerberg’s performance was a relief for Facebook’s shareholders. Facebook’s stock rose 7.9 percent after his interview. Now the question becomes – how long will Zuckerberg continue “leading” the company when it is all too clear that the “grown-ups” are now in charge?