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Facebook IPO shows the power of the young and the restless

business Updated: Feb 07, 2012 14:36 IST
Narayanan Madhavan
Narayanan Madhavan
Hindustan Times
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Google is sooo 20th Century!

Facebook, it seems, is the new Google as it readies for an expected filing of papers for its much awaited initial public offer (IPO), which is expected to value the company at $100 billion as the social networking giant founded by Mark Zuckerburg moves to shed 10% stakes to raise $10 billion (Rs. 50,000 crore)

We might as well adopt a cool style to discuss the dour world of business. Because the crowd is getting younger and the money bigger.

While Sergey Brin and Larry Page founded Google at the Stanford University campus, Zuckerburg, now all of only 27, founded his at the other end of the US, at Harvard seven years ago. But search is not cool when compared with the mystique and magic of youngsters across the planet finding games, love, friendship and banter in a connected “social graph” – Zuckerburg’s favourite concept.

PayScale Inc, which measures company parameters, reported last year that the average age of a Facebook employee is 26 – compared with IBM’s 44. Accel Partners, the venture fund that invested a mere $12.7 million in Facebook in 2005 has a stake that is now worth $9 billion – nearly 1,000 times its investment!

Facebook has 3,000 employees. At a market value of $100 billion, each employee would be worth $33 million! How is that as an indicator of productivity in a company that owns patents and talent – not factories!

Now, consider that Google’s market value is at $187 billion – about 15 years after its founding. Apple’s market value at $422 billion is at one extreme, while Yahoo, which once offered to buy up Facebook for $1 billion, is now valued around $19 billion. Clearly, Facebook is phenomenal for a debut company.

In 2007, Microsoft invested $240 million in Facebook. At that time, the valuation was set at approximately $15 billion. Now Microsoft is also riding piggyback on the Facebook IPO, multiplying its investment six times in five years.

Facebook’s Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg, at 42, is quite old by the company’s standards. But consider the fact that she stood audaciously at the World Economic Forum last weekend, effectively saying that her young company would help revive the world economy.

“Facebook is barely seven years old and has 3,000 employees—and it has created more than 450,000 jobs in Europe and the US,” Sandberg said, presumably referring to application developers and other partners who are part of the “Facebook ecosystem”

So, is social media, dismissed as a lazy side activity, having toppled governments in the Arab world with a democratic upsurge, now set to revive the world economy?