Views & Opinions

What’s Changing the World Worth?

On Friday, Mark Zuckerberg’s little company Facebook went public on the Nasdaq. I know, you heard it here first. This is a company that, most likely, has changed the world unlike anything we’ve seen since the Civil Rights movement. Yup. I said it. I know how much people love to mock the company. We complain that it sucks our minds out of our bodies. It consumes us. It’s the dashboard of our lives, and while on the one hand, we miss the days before it existed—on the other, we can’t imagine life without it.

Source Credit: Illustration by Ciceron

How many people can say they’ve had this much of an affect on the world? Not many. Henry Ford. Thomas Edison. Steve Jobs. Bill Gates. George Washington. Martin Luther King, Jr. And now we must add a quirky, socially awkward technologist to the mix: Mark Zuckerberg. The fact is, Zuckerberg invented a platform that has changed the world, from the Middle East to the very fabric of our society.

I have seen people’s lives changed in very poignant ways. I have seen acquaintances go from the brink of suicide to being saved as a result of Facebook. I have witnessed people who have gone missing being found. I have reacquainted myself with friends who I thought would never be a part of my life but are now fully engaged in my life. You have too. For this, you must thank Zuckerberg.

I’m a capitalist. That’s no surprise. And I think Zuckerberg and his team should be paid handsomely for creating something so important. Is he worth $20 billion? I don’t know. Ask the citizens of Tunisia or Egypt. What’s he worth to them? Why did he have meetings with President Obama? Entrepreneurs are a tricky bunch. They’re often ruthless human beings. Anyone who’s read Steve Jobs’ biography knows this. It takes an incredible amount of gumption to succeed in business, let alone change the world. Frankly, I’d be a much more successful businessman (financially speaking) if I were more aggressive. I’m not; therefore, I do not attain the ridiculous spoils of a market-driven economy.

But to me, the market is an amazing democracy. The stock market allows individuals to put their money where their hearts and minds are. The Facebook IPO was a classic example of this. Investors—though not many of us, probably—were given an opportunity to invest hard-won dollars into something they believe is important. Sure, there are speculators. Sure, there are institutional investors who are shadowy subjects looking to make a quick buck (or millions). But truly, if you had access to Facebook stock and had some financial liquidity, I bet you’d invest too.

So, what is Mark Zuckerberg worth? Whatever the market says, as gauged by people like you and me who find value in Facebook. I do. It’s changed my life. It’s connected me to long-lost friends, brought my family together in ways previously unachievable, and helps support organizations—including many nonprofits—that were previously limited to less cost-effective resources. Whatever we may feel about Zuckerberg personally, we cannot discount that he had a vision and made it happen. And he should be paid well for it.

UPDATE May 29, 2012:

Facebook IPO Follow-Up: Lil Bit O’Egg on My Face, But…

So, do I have egg on my face from last week’s glowing post (above) about Facebook’s IPO?

Perhaps so. Then again, it appears as though the handling of Facebook’s public launch was carried out by the financial firm of Larry, Curly, and Moe. Folks like you and I were hung out to dry, and firms like Morgan Stanley and their cronies (I don’t use that word factitiously) gamed the market to make money as the stock dropped. Today, symbol FB is hovering around $30 per share, and guess what: They’re still making money.

As I mentioned in last week’s post, I believe in the market economy, especially one that is fair. I know nothing about the law around what happened or did not happen in last week’s IPO, but I do believe that the public was duped. Morgan Stanley will tell you that everything they did was legal. Well, that’s what happens when you have lobbyists writing banking and securities laws. So, if everything that happened last week was legal, then there’s work to be done.

Am I right on this at least?