Yes, when Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg took the stage as the inaugural interviewee at this year’s Web 2.0 conference, he was wearing them. Them being the Adidas man-sandals that he’s now inextricably identified with, the hideous things that cannot be made fashionable. Not even by the most sought-after Internet dude on the planet.
Zuckerberg plays to type. His speech patterns skew young. Frequently, clauses in his sentences end with a teenage-y upward inflection, like a question? He comes off as an enthused geek, if taciturn and oblique—which, given Facebook’s stature in the world, is to be expected.
The day’s main session kicked off with conference heads John Battelle and Tim O’Reilly asking for a show of hands as to whether or not there was a Web 2.0 bubble going on. (Maybe 5% raised arms to show assent—why, presumably, would one volunteer that the good times should end?) And appropriately, Battelle’s first questions of Zuckerberg vaulted off press reports that have investors mulling minority stakes in Facebook that may place a $15 billion valuation on the company.
Battelle: “How’s the financing going?”
Zuckerberg: “Almost wrapped up.”
Battelle: “Don’t you think you’re selling yourself short at $15 billion?” (Cue audience laughter.)
Zuckerberg: “We’ll see.” (A coy look away from his interviewer.)
Zuckerberg also said that “any event”—presumably, an outright sale or IPO, though this went unspecified—involving Facebook was “definitely years out.” \Battelle made a big show of jotting down this statement for posterity.
Data points coaxed from the politely reserved Zuckerberg included:
—Facebook currently employs over 300, all of whom have equity in the company. Within a year’s time, Zuckerberg expects his staff to more than double, to around 700.
—Zuckerberg on how much time he spends each day thinking about finanbcing: “None.”
—An applications area that Facebook itself would be interested in—a notion of some importance,, given Facebook’s draconian terms for applications developers—could be “something about advertising.”
Zuckerberg: “We’re not really a media company.” A variant on this phrase was once regularly uttered by Microsoft’s Bill Gates, which has since thrown truly scarifying amounts of cash towards non-advertising media operations.
Speaking of Microsoft . . there is the matter of the ad deal between Microsoft and Facebook.
Zuckerberg: “I think we’re both happy”’ with it.
(To which Battelle wanted to know if Zuckerberg was “sure” about this.)
Zuckerberg: “Pretty sure.”
I am a New York old-media guy at a new media conference in San Francisco—a stranger in a strange-ish land—where the moguls and moguls-to-be don’t always feel the need to charm, bully or convince their questioners.
In this regard, they are very different from their counterparts out East.