In February this year Facebook made a much-anticipated status update. Eight years after founder Mark Zuckerberg started the project at Harvard University, Facebook announced that it would go public.
If Facebook manages to make enough friends on Wall Street with its initial public offering of stock, it would probably make its stock -market debut in four or five months as one of the world’s most influential companies.
Facebook is a success story; there is no doubt about it. In 2010 director David Fincher made the beginnings of Facebook into a film called The Social Network. Yes, we all know that Facebook has become tremendously successful and yes, it changed our social life. But that is not the point. The point is that Mark Zuckerberg will be the youngest CEO among 1000 most high-selling American corporations, if Facebook goes public.
The operative word in this sentence is “youngest”. Mark Zuckerberg is no longer an exception as far as young entrepreneurs are concerned, but only being young doesn’t guarantee success.
Jeans, grey t-shirt or hoodie and sneakers- that was Mark Zuckerberg’s college look that we saw for years wherever he appeared. Okay, there is nothing wrong with that. He is 28 years old, young and innovative. In 2009, however, it seemed that Zuckeberg has grown up, at least visually. For a whole year he was wearing a tie which should demonstrate that this particular year was both decisive and serious. Although now he is wearing a suit from time to time depending on the occasion, he cannot hide his juvenile clumsiness. At public events the computer geek that runs the multi billion-dollar company appears to be insecure and nervous when talking to potential investors.
More and more smart youngsters like Mark Zuckerberg join the upper league. Instead of being in an trainee program young entrepreneurs occupy high-ranking positions as CEOs.
Andrew Mason, the 31-year old founder and CEO of Groupon, a website that is offering discounts on local businesses, and 30-year old Brian Chesky, CEO of airbnb, an online room-rental service, rather look like college students than entrepreneurs who are worth billions.
Nevertheless, one can speak of a trend towards younger managers, especially in the digital business. They know the new markets better and are closer to the target groups. Probably it is the effort and verve they add to their ideas and business models and the willingness to take risks in order to put these into practice.
How else would you explain the success of twenty-something Instagram founders Mike Krieger and Kevin Systrom who turned two years of work into $ 1 billion?
The manager’s age doesn’t have to be decisive for a company’s success. What is definitely required is strategic and operational expertise and valuable experience abroad that can assure long-term success.
Apple genius and founder Steve Jobs and Google founder Larry Page are ultimate examples that indicate that operating experience and strong leading skills are important prerequisites. Both of them took a time out after the year of foundation to gain this experience they were lacking.
Korn/Ferry International consultant Christoph Kleinen believes:
Given the demographic development it is likely that we will see more older mangers in top level management.
Since companies complain about a shortage of skilled labor and tend to exhaust the possibilities of experienced managers, the phenomenon of young entrepreneurs might be a phase rather than a trend.
Is this the moral of the story then or are we maybe witnessing a fundamental change?
So what is the secret recipe, the secret formula for long-term success? Is there any or was it just mere luck that Mark Zuckerberg found a market niche at the right time and in the right place?