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The fine print: 5 takeaways from Facebook IPO

Richard Procter | February 2, 2012 | Story Reporters Notebook News and Features Tech World

In case you live under a rock, Facebook has officially filed an initial public offering to the SEC for $5 billion. Although Zuckerberg’s letter to potential investors might seem hefty at more than 2,000 words, the entire S-1 form clocks in at 150 pages and reveals a wealth of information about the social media company. We trudged through it, and found a couple of things worth noting.

1. Hackers aren’t all bad. In Zuckerberg’s opening letter there’s a defense of hackers and how they make Facebook tick. “The word ‘hacker’ has an unfairly negative connotation from being portrayed in the media as people who break into computers,” Zuckerberg writes. “In reality, hacking just means building something quickly or testing the boundaries of what can be done.” He notes that every few months Facebook hosts “hackathons”: Engineers at the company get together to put ideas they have into code. According to Zuckerberg, several recognizable Facebook features have resulted from these sessions, including Timeline and Facebook chat.

2. Facebook ads: Here to stay! Let’s face it: Once a website has introduced ads, their presence is going to be permanent. Facebook lists a loss of advertisers as a significant risk factor for investors, and understandably so: In 2011, advertising dollars accounted for more than 85 percent of Facebook’s revenue. So the ads are here to stay, but Facebook is constantly honing in on what interests you as an individual. So if Hot Christian Singles shows up, take it as your cue.

3. Stanford v. Harvard. Eight of the 12 executive officers and board members listed and profiled in the filing have degrees from either Harvard University or Stanford University. Which school has more representatives? Four members have Harvard degrees and five have degrees from Stanford. (Score one for the Bay Area!) You’ll note that adds up to nine. That’s because director James Breyer has a B.S. from Stanford and an M.B.A from Harvard. Of course, then there’s Zuckerberg, who memorably attended Harvard but dropped out and moved to Palo Alto to, you know, focus on his startup.

4. Delaware, Inc. Facebook is celebrated as a successful Silicon Valley company, but it’s actually incorporated in Delaware. In fact, more than 50 percent of all publicly traded companies in the United States Businesses choose Delaware for its favorable tax laws and the Delaware Court of Chancery, one of the country’s oldest business courts. Or maybe Zuckerberg is just a huge fan of the world’s second-longest twin suspension bridge.

5. Don’t spend it all in one place. In a section detailing the compensation mechanisms for executives at Facebook, it’s noted that Zuckerberg requested that his own salary be reduced to $1 per year, starting in 2013. Considering that sources like the Wall Street Journal predict that he alone will make $28 billion from the company going public, we doubt he’ll need to start clipping coupons anytime soon.

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