Mark Zuckerberg has a style problem: he’s happy with his hoodie, but potential investors aren’t convinced by the Facebook founder’s low-key sartorial strategy. When you’re chasing a near-$100bn IPO, turning off those holding the purse strings by insisting that every day is Dress-down Friday could be seen as petulant stubbornness – that’s certainly what Wedbush Securities analyst Michael Pachter screeched, decrying the CEO’s wardrobe as a “mark of immaturity” and a lack of respect. But make no mistake, the time to get worried is when Zuckerberg reaches for the suit.
[Image: Eduardo Munoz/Reuters]
Arguably, Zuckerberg’s hoodie addiction would be more of a problem were the young CEO going for a job at one of the investment firms he’s courting. Then, he’d need to convince them that he was cut out for their way of business. Facebook is, though, in many ways a proven horse: it has the user heft, it has the mobile engagement – even if it’s struggling to monetize it – and it has the brand recognition.
When it comes down to it, would investors really want a Zuckerberg sewn up in a tight suit, concentrating on graphs and charts? The risk from turning your founder corporate is that you can increasingly be seen as “out of touch”; look, for a good example of that, at MySpace’s decline into “uncool” irrelevance, as the suits stepped in and the imagination phased out.
Zuckerberg has made himself the center of Facebook’s strategy, and he’s made sure – through careful stock structuring – that things will remain that way even after shares go up for sale. Part of that is keeping the network feeling authentic: lose that sense of companionable social freedom, somewhere for members to escape from work and commune with friends, and they’ll soon start looking elsewhere.
Shouting that you’re making your decision on whether to invest in a company based on what the founder is wearing feels like showboating. Clothes may maketh the man, but they don’t maketh the IPO.