Facebook IPO: folks, don’t touch the hoodie

9 May 2012

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg wearing a jacket, of all things

The furor surrounding the mystery dropping of Facebook’s official IPO video from the Boston leg of the IPO roadshow yesterday and failure of its CEO to meet hundreds of investors in that city has paled into insignificance beside the sudden speculation that CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s choice of apparel – that hoodie – is disrespectful to investors.

The sudden interest in Zuckerberg’s sartorial elegance (or not) stems from comments made by a chap called Michael Pachter from Wedbush Securities.

“Mark and his signature hoodie: He’s actually showing investors he doesn’t care that much; he’s going to be him,” Pachter said in an interview on Bloomberg TV. “I think that’s a mark of immaturity. I think that he has to realise he’s bringing investors in as a new constituency right now, and I think he’s got to show them the respect that they deserve because he’s asking them for their money.”

I think Facebook and Zuckerberg have become such a high-profile story – let’s not forget the film The Social Network and the stories about Zuckerberg’s dietary choices (yes, apparently he does kill his own chickens) – that seeing Zuckerberg appear in a suit with a shirt and tie would be as incongruous as putting lipstick on a pig. It’s just not meant to be. At least for a few decades.

In the tech world, CEOs are known for cultivating their own style. The late Steve Jobs of Apple wore black turtleneck sweaters, jeans and running shoes as a kind of uniform. His purpose for doing so was quite utilitarian. He was striving for simplicity to focus on the purpose at hand and to dress otherwise would probably have been insincere or a distraction. The CEO of Rovio Mikael Hed makes a point of always wearing a bright red Angry Birds hoodie, ostensibly to promote the burgeoning Angry Birds brand’s soaring momentum.


Likewise, Zuckerberg is more often than not seen in a drab T-shirt and jeans. I get the sense it’s because he is (to borrow a phrase from the movie) “wired-in” and really exists to accomplish whatever mission he’s set for himself and the company rather than impressing or wowing the crowds.

The cult that surrounds him probably means that investors have come to expect the hoodie or the T-shirt. And no matter how revered the institution and its investors, the cult or legend has informed even the most conservative of minds.

IPO circus

The reality is the Facebook IPO – perhaps the biggest IPO circus we’ll see for another decade – is pretty much a done deal and the question in most investors’ minds is who can get their hands on the shares?

The IPO roadshow began in earnest yesterday and is already a bit of a comedy of errors with Zuckerberg failing to turn up at a meeting with hundreds of investors in Boston yesterday, preferring instead to meet privately with corporate bigwigs. And this, rather than apparel, has ruffled enough feathers.

In the 32-minute official Facebook IPO video which went out ahead of the roadshow (and the social network has enigmatically stopped showing at roadshow meetings), Zuckerberg is attired in a drab blue T-shirt but speaks passionately about the Facebook story, how photo sharing blossomed on the site and how Timeline has become the story of most people’s lives today on a digital page.

Vice-president Chris Cox and CFO David Ebersman are also casually attired in the video, albeit wearing open-necked shirts. In the video they rattle off some impressive numbers, such as how there are 125bn friendships on Facebook, some 300m photos are uploaded daily on the social network and how 2bn ‘Likes’ and a billion comments are left on the site daily.

Watch the official Facebook IPO video here:


John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years