A tipster reports spotting Mark Zuckerberg in San Francisco today, outside 21st Amendment in San Francisco. He was "having a conversation (all smiles) with two other guys," our tipster tells us. The restaurant and bar is near San Francisco's South-of-Market startup epicenter, so there's any number of reasons Zuckerberg might have been in town. But I can think of one reason why he'd be all smiles: He's not in Palo Alto, where Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg is busily wrecking his company. When Zuckerberg hired Sheryl Sandberg as Facebook's COO, he said she would not be in "overall charge" of the company, but would stick to running business operations. As she's repeatedly meddled in technology and product, Facebookers have asked Zuckerberg what's going on — and he's kept repeating his "overall charge" promise, even as Sandberg pulls an Al Haig — "I'm in control here" — down in Palo Alto. Zuckerberg's misdirection is entirely intentional — and very revealing of his management style.Zuckerberg tends to fall in love with his latest hire, and give that person more and more responsibility, until there's some obvious failure. Even from the outside, it's crystal clear that's what happened with Oven Van Natta, Sandberg's predecessor as COO; it happened, too, with Chamath Palihapitiya, whose portfolio waxed and waned with Zuckerberg's favor. So Sandberg's rampage through Facebook's technical ranks is just par for the course. If past experience is any indication, Zuckerberg's hanging back, keeping his fingerprints off her actions, and waiting for her to trip up. Her botched handling of ace product marketer Ben Ling's departure may be what turns Zuckerberg against Sandberg — or not. What's clear: When his disfavor arrives, it will be sharp, cold, and unmovable. Sandberg won't know what hit her. And Zuckerberg will be all smiles — like he was today in San Francisco.
Can a PR guy run an operating system? Silicon Valley's gut reaction: No way. And yet that's what Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has done in appointing Elliot Schrage, her handpicked flack, to run Facebook's platform. The platform, when it launched a year ago, was hailed as the world's next Windows; by opening up its friends lists and other features to outside developers, Facebook would surely become the next Microsoft, ran the standard line of punditry, in an age when the pundits were in love with Facebook. That, more than anything, surely stirred Microsoft to invest $240 million in the company. But in one very short year — or a very long one, rather — Facebook's platform has gone from selling point to PR headache.
While Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg tries to convince the world 20 million SuperPoke users have value, her minions are busy trying to convince enterprise developers to build applications that actually do. "One area we've seen a lot of value for the social graph is in the enterprise because it's a completely different way to envision an HR system or CRM," Facebook marketing exec Chamath Palihapitiya told conference-goers Thursday.
FERRY BUILDING, SAN FRANCISCO — Let's be clear: Local PR firm OutCast's CEO Dinner event Thursday night wasn't really a dinner — most people ate standing up. Nor were there many CEOs. (I counted one: Jim Louderback of Revision3.) It's a far cry from years past where the decimated post-bubble survivors of San Francisco's tech press corps would gather in a room and listen to OutCast clients like Gordon Eubanks of Oblix, a salty former submarine officer, utter zingers about the wonders of Viagra. OutCast is a sizable firm now, and it's got big clients like Facebook and Yahoo. But Mark Zuckerberg? Jerry Yang? Nowhere to be seen. Instead, you had a hall full of hacks and flacks. I wonder how many of them shook videoblogger Robert Scoble's hand? Photo gallery after the jump:
Sean Parker has had a hand in some of the Valley's biggest successes. His first company, Napster, took the world by storm, but didn't make Parker rich. His second, Plaxo, just sold to Comcast. And his third, Facebook — well, say no more. Except for the bit about him getting kicked out, according to Mark Zuckerberg's legal testimony, for a cocaine arrest. (Parker characterized the incident as "a misunderstanding.") That and more is covered in the 21 pages Sarah Lacy devotes to Parker in Once You're Lucky, Twice You're Good, new book about Web 2.0. The index page where Parker is listed:
I remember, distinctly, when former Business 2.0 editor Josh Quittner's love affair with Facebook began this spring. He couldn't stop talking about it, and I could hardly avoid hearing about it, since my office was next door to his. With all the zeal of a late convert, Quittner evangelized Facebook for most of this year — and now, feeling betrayed by Facebook's Beacon ads, he has attacked them with all the betrayed fury of a new apostate. Facebook is dead — to him, at any rate. Quittner's fickle rage perfectly captures the Silicon Valley hype cycle, and the press's complicity in it. Having built up Facebook, Quittner and his fellow reporters must, inevitably tear it down. But in this latest episode, it's Facebook's critics, not Facebook, who have jumped the shark.
Founders never share power willingly, gracefully, or for very long. That's a lesson that Facebook's Owen Van Natta should have learned at the knee of Jeff Bezos, when Van Natta was an executive at Amazon.com. Instead, though, he's been schooled in it by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, who just demoted Van Natta from COO to chief revenue officer and VP of operations, Kara Swisher reports on AllThingsD. Zuckerberg's former No. 2, once trusted to attend the Sun Valley media-mogul conference in his stead, now shares key duties with a host of other executives. Here's a rundown on Van Natta's new rivals.
What to make of Chamath Palihapitiya's hire by Facebook? Immediately before joining the red-hot social network, he worked as a venture capitalist for the Mayfield Fund. And last February, he attracted controversy for his comments about the privileged society of Silicon Valley in an art film, Living Pictures/Men in Gold." Palihapitiya, who's
Indian Sri Lankan, spoke of his intention to break through the old boys' club. But in going from a venture capital firm to Facebook, it would seem he's just going from the old boys' club to the new boys' club.
This weekend's must-see movie isn't anything out of Hollywood — it's "Living Pictures/Men in Gold" at SFMOMA, a 40-minute video homage to seven Silicon Valley rich dudes. Created by French artist Sylvie Blocher, the video includes interview-montages with Snocap's Rusty Rueff, former Apple exec and "recovering assoholic" Jean-Louis Gassée, Eventbrite's Kevin Hartz, McDougall Creative's Eric McDougall, Eight Inc.'s Wilhelm Oehl, and Mayfield Fund's Chamath Palihapitiya (pictured). Yep, that's only six — no idea who the seventh is, though Kathy Levinson, formerly of E-Trade, had her footage rendered unusable due to "technical problems." Mmmm-hmmm. Read the Chronicle story for several good sexmoney quotes from the stars, and let us know your opinion if you see the exhibit.