The Zuck

The day everyone has been waiting for is coming. Facebook’s $11.8 billion initial public offering will make Mark Zuckerberg, who is only 27 years old, one of the world’s richest men, apart from one of the most influential. The social network he created when he was just 19 is today one of the most valuable companies in the US and the world.

The IPO will be the biggest of any Internet company ever since Google’s in 2004, and could raise up to $10 billion. The price per share will likely be somewhere around $28-35 dollars. The final price will be set the night before the day it begins trading, probably May 18th. He has announced he plans to sell 30.2 million shares, which would net him around $1 billion. He will be richer than Steve Ballmer, Microsoft’s CEO, if the company prices at the top of its range.

In the end, Facebook will trade in the Nasdaq, which also lists companies like Apple and Google. Nasdaq and the New York Stock Exchange compete fiercely over listings. Although the NYSE continues to lead in the number and value of company debuts, this deal gives Nasdaq one of the most coveted deals ever and is an important win because it increases its reputation as being the exchange of choice for technology companies. It opened an office in Silicon Valley 20 years ago.

Today it is clear that Facebook is by far the world’s most succesful social network. Not only has it become popular for staying connected with friends and family, it has also given all of us a voice to express ourselves and has taught us that we are all brands. It has transformed the way we socialize and the way we receive information.

Revolutions taking place today -from the Arab Spring to the Occupy Wall Street movement- owe a great deal to Facebook, which has enabled people to communicate with each other, even when official and mass media were censuring the events and the news.

Mark Zuckerberg -The Zuck- has resisted taking his company public for years, obssessed with building something authentic, which would be both very personal and also appealing for millions of people everywhere -more than 900 million today- across all cultures, from Harvard to Tahrir Square. He has also aggresively innovated, being famous for introducing new products quickly. In doing so he has become a visionary, without even setting out to become one.

Zuckerberg will still retain about 57 percent of the voting power after the offering, making sure that Facebook will remain as much his as ours when it goes public.  

-To read the original article in PDF: The Zuck.

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About Elegance

Even if we tried really hard, we would not find too many examples of elegance in politics. And I’m not referring exclusively only physical elegance. I mean elegance of any kind. It is almost as if beauty and refinement were at odds with the exercise of public office. I once met a Spanish female politician who spent most of her time travelling around Europe. She had not been to the city center of Madrid in about 3 years, she simply hadn’t had the time, so her husband bought her clothes. You can imagine what her wardrobe looked like.

Among women, Elena Salgado, the former Spanish Minister of Economy and Finance has been a recent notable exception. Christine Lagarde, the sophisticated and stylish managing director of the International Monetary Fund is another. We have Nancy Pelosi. And then, of course, we have the incredibly elegant Queen of England.

It’s not easy to find elegance today anywhere. Back in the early days of air travel, gentlemen had to take off their hats to enter the plane, they served martinis, you had a decent meal. Of course it was not all exactly as perfect as it looks in movies, but still, today we fly packed like chickens, the person next to you might be wearing bermudas and sandals and the whole experience is frequently a nightmare. Somewhere along the way elegance went missing.

Politics today, more than ever, has become a sort of show. We watch carefully crafted speeches, we read news that in part have been scripted as well, we hear and see what they want us to hear and see. Press releases and press conferences frequently frame the debate, journalists are frequently happy copying and pasting. Politicians have learnt the art of manipulating the press and the press will repackage it, throw it at us and we will swallow it in the papers or in the evening news. The media promotes this, of course, because for them reality has to be, in a way, a show as well.

For all politicians borrow from the entertainment business, however, it seems they have not yet learnt that we love well-dressed people as well. There is something about an elegant man or woman that inspires respect and admiration. It is not scientific, but we, for some reason it seems that we tend to lend more credibility to someone who is impeccably dressed. We will more readily associate higher ideas to better-dressed people. We discriminate even if we don’t want to. We want to be seduced.

There are also not that many handsome men or beautiful women in politics. We do have the attractive and charismatic Prime Ministers of Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra, and of Denmark, Helle Thorning-Schmidt, but that’s as close as we get. Maybe Jay Leno is right when he said “politics is just show business for ugly people”.

I have written this article, Bring Back Those Elegant Men, as a reflection on physical elegance in politics.

My latest article is also about elegance, but not in politics. I absolutely loved discovering La Société des Ambianceurs et Personnes Élégantes, a subculture specific of the cities of Kinshasa and Brazzaville in Congo. I found it truly inspiring and quite relevant to any debate on elegance.

Since I’m on the issue of elegance, I would also like to draw attention to three other articles I wrote some time ago. In one of them,The Emperor’s (Funny) Clothes, I take a look an incredibly intriguing politician, Muammar Gaddafi, who was the eccentric ruthless dictator of Libya. The article is not about politics, but strictly about his unique sense of fashion. I also dedicated an article to his famous female guard, who captured the imagination of people worldwide. The article is titled Lipstick and Fatigues.

Lastly, I also wrote a piece about the young Palestinian fashion designer Omar Joseph Nasser-Khoury, one of the most interesting talents to emerge from the Arab world. He combines the motifs and the refined cross-stitching, typical of his home land, with bold tailoring, to create modern designs.