Harvard University has produced many notable alumni over the years. The Ivy League institution also holds the record for producing some of the most successful college dropouts in world history. They include the likes of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Hollywood actor Matt Damon, and poet Robert Frost. Another notable person who falls into the rank of Harvard’s illustrious dropouts is Mark Zuckerberg.
The Facebook founder left school after just two years to focus on his nascent idea for a social networking site. That idea has since morphed into the largest social media site in the world while its creator has become one of the wealthiest individuals on earth.
Where is Mark Zuckerberg From?
Mark Elliot Zuckerberg was born on the 14th of May 1984 in New York. He has German, Austrian, and Polish ancestry, and was raised in the Jewish faith. Zuckerberg grew up in Dobbs Ferry, New York and attended elite private schools like Ardsley High School and Philips Exeter Academy.
By all accounts, a young Zuckerberg was quite brilliant as a child and won prizes in several subjects. He, however, particularly had an interest in computers and writing software and as such, his parents hired a private tutor for him. They also allowed him to take a college programming course while he was still in high school. Zuckerberg subsequently repaid his parents’ faith by developing a software program he called “ZuckNet” which enhanced the flow of communication between all the computers in the house where his father operated his dental practice.
Given all the outstanding exploits that Zuckerberg recorded as a youngster, it is quite easy to peg him as a typical computer nerd. This was, however, not the case with him. The young boy participated in the sport of fencing. He also had an unquenchable passion for classic literature.
His Time At Harvard and Why He Dropped Out?
After high school, Mark Zuckerberg was admitted to study Computer and Psychology at Harvard University in 2002. He pursued his studies with characteristic zeal but also made out time to indulge in his passion for programming. The young man started out by creating CourseMatch, an app that helped students to select a course based on their friends’ preferences. After this, he launched FaceMash, a program that enabled students to decide who was more attractive between two persons. These two programs gained much traction within the student community but failed to achieve sustainable interest.
Zuckerberg continued programming and hit the mother lode in his sophomore year of 2004. He joined hands with several other students; Dustin Moskovitz, Chris Hughes, Eduardo Saverin, and Andrew McCollum, to create a website known as TheFacebook.com. This site was designed to allow students to upload photos and create profiles in order to keep in touch with friends. It also enhanced connectivity by making it possible for users to connect with friends of friends. TheFacebook.com proved to be a big hit with students and half of the Harvard population soon signed up in its first month of existence.
Buoyed by this early success, Mark Zuckerberg and his partners extended the network to other Ivy League institutions. They subsequently left Harvard altogether and relocated to Palo Alto, California, to focus on the app. In California, the internet entrepreneur rented office space and incorporated the company. He then lobbied several venture capitalists to fund his idea and eventually scored a $12.7 million investment in 2005. This infusion of cash greatly enhanced Facebook’s operations and a year later, Yahoo offered to buy Zuckerberg out for a whopping $1 billion.
This visionary young man, however, turned down the offer as the most important thing for him was not money but rather enhancing the free flow of information. Zuckerberg’s decision has since turned out to be the right one. Facebook now boasts of 2.5 billion users and is available in almost every corner of the world. It employs more than 44,942 persons and is valued at $159 billion, making it one of the ten most valuable brands in the entire world. Additionally, the social networking site joins the likes of Apple, Amazon, and Google as the ‘big four tech’ companies in the world.
Allegations of Stolen Idea
Shortly after Mark Zuckerberg launched Facebook in February 2004, three Harvard students; Divya Narendra and identical twin brothers, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss, accused him of stealing the idea for the site from them.
According to the trio, they had hired Zuckerberg in 2003 to develop a matchmaking site called Harvard Connection. The programmer, however, abandoned the project midway and used their ideas, as well as source code, to develop Facebook. Zuckerberg strenuously denied these allegations but the twins took him to court. Both sides eventually reached a settlement in which the Winklevoss twins were given 1.2 million shares in Facebook.
This means that the duo now has an eternal legacy in the company and will continuously benefit from any rise in its fortunes. For instance, in 2012, when Facebook raised $16 billion in its IPO, the twin’s 1.2 million shares reached a worth of $300 million.
Other Subsidiaries of Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook Empire
Mark Zuckerberg has nurtured Facebook Inc. into one of the most valuable companies in the world. He has further acquired and launched several other social media and tech companies in the process. A prominent one among those under his portfolio is Instagram.
Instagram is a social networking service that allows users to upload photos and videos in an organized manner. These posts can then be shared with the public or with specific followers. The platform was launched in 2010 and has since then witnessed a steady growth in popularity. This made Facebook cough out $1 billion, in stock and cash, to purchase the company in April 2012. This business move has turned out to be a smart one as Instagram is now one of the most downloaded apps in the world and has over 1 billion registered users.
Another tech company owned by Facebook Inc. is the WhatsApp Messenger. This is a mobile app that enables users to send both text and voice messages, share images, documents and other media files as well as make voice and video calls. WhatsApp was created by two former Yahoo employees; Jan Koum and Brian Acton and was launched in January 2009. Facebook subsequently purchased it for $19.3 billion in 2014. It is now one of the world’s most utilized messaging apps and is especially popular in Africa, Asia, India, Pakistan, and the United Kingdom.
Facebook has also created Facebook Watch. This is a video-on-demand service that allows users to access a variety of short-form and long-form videos including original content. Facebook Watch was launched in August 2017 and is available to all Facebook users. The service attracts about 720 million viewers monthly and it is estimated that it will make as much as $12 billion by 2022.
Another exciting venture that Facebook has embarked on is Oculus, a virtual reality start-up that was founded in July 2012 by the quartet of Palmer Lucky, Brendan Iribe, Nate Mitchell, and Michael Antonov. The company develops virtual reality hardware and software products, and Facebook purchased it in March 2014 in a deal worth a total of $2.3 billion.
Handling Data Breaches and the spread of Fake News on Facebook
Since inception, Facebook has faced several challenges as a result of users abusing the platform. Some exploit the app to spread hate speech while others use it as an avenue to spread terrorist propaganda and recruit members. There have also been instances of some politicians using the platform to spread fake news for their selfish gains.
The biggest challenge that Facebook has, however, faced in this regard to date remains the Cambridge Analytica scandal which impacted the 2016 US election. In the run-up to the election, the social media site had collaborated with Cambridge Analytica (a political consulting firm) to survey thousands of willing participants. The firm then went ahead to not only take the data of participants but also harvest the data of all other users of the website. This harvested data was subsequently used to create a psychographic profile based on which the users were sent targeted political ads. This huge privacy breach was exposed in March 2018 and it created a PR nightmare for Facebook.
As a result of the breach, Facebook shares lost billions in value while many supported the hashtag – Delete Facebook. The U.K. and U.S. governments called for greater regulations and Mark Zuckerberg had to testify before the American Senate.
During his two-day congressional testimony, he acknowledged that they had made a mistake in trusting Cambridge Analytica’s assurances that they would not abuse personal data. He then promised that the social media site would continue to work to eliminate all forms of election meddling. He has since then tried to live up to this promise but many believe that he is not doing enough. They point to Facebook’s decision to not fact-check political ads during the 2020 U.S. election as a sign of his insincerity. Zuckerberg has, however, defended this stance by saying that he is only trying to protect freedom of expression.
Delivering Internet Services to the Whole World
Asides his great strides with Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg also has the altruistic ambition of getting every human being online. To achieve this purpose, he has joined hands with other tech companies, such as Ericsson, Nokia, and Samsung, to launch the Internet.org project. The project is aimed at bringing the internet to two-thirds of the worlds’ population who don’t have it yet. Internet.org plans to do this through a blue sky Wi-Fi scheme featuring drones, lasers, and satellites.
The initiative will also cater to people who have access to the internet but are not yet online as a result of one reason or the other. This particular group of persons will be engaged via several means including simplifying various apps so that it can function in areas with poor networks; making data cheap and affordable; as well as coming up with content that is compelling enough to generate and sustain interest. The Internet.org project was launched in August 2013.
Mark Zuckerberg’s Annual Personal Goals Challenge
Mark Zuckerberg spent much of the 2000s trying to consolidate Facebook. He, therefore, made special plans to ensure that his whole life would not be consumed by the behemoth corporation that he had created. These special plans came in the form of an annual personal goal that he set for himself.
Starting from New Year 2009, the internet entrepreneur picked one random non-Facebook thing to do each year. For the first year of 2009, he resolved to wear a tie each day in a bid to look more professional. For the second year of 2010, he learned to speak Mandarin, the official language of the People’s Republic of China.
Since then, Zuckerberg’s other personal goals have consisted of 2011 – going vegetarian or eating only an animal that he killed; 2012 – coding daily, 2013 – meeting a non-Facebook person each day, 2014 – writing thank you notes, 2015 – reading at least 25 boos for the year, 2016 – building a customized AI assistant for his home and running 365 miles, 2017 – visiting every state in the USA, 2018 – fixing inherent abuses of Facebook platform and 2019 – hosting public debates on the effects of tech on society.
With the onset of a new decade in 2020, Zuckerberg has revealed that he would no longer be embarking on New Year’s resolutions but would instead focus on implementing his long term vision for the future of the world.
How Rich is the Facebook Founder?
Mark Zuckerberg has a net worth of $81 billion according to the Bloomberg billionaires index released in January 2020. This makes him the fifth richest individual in the world as well as the richest young entrepreneur.
Zuckerberg predictably owes his fortune to his Facebook Empire. This fortune, however, stems from his shares rather than from any payment/salaries. The New York native belongs to the class of CEOs/public office holders who have opted not to be paid any salaries and so, receive a token of $1 to comply with the law. This means that his wealth is dependent on the value of his Facebook shares.
The Harvard dropout owns about 25% of Facebook shares and as such, his net worth is intrinsically linked to the volatility in the markets. For instance, his wealth increased by as much as $27.3 billion in 2019 alone thanks to Facebook’s consistent quarterly sales growth for that year. His net worth, however, took a tumble after the company’s shares lost 5.7% of its value in January 2020. This drop slashed $4 billion off Zuckerberg’s bottom line.
What Does Mark Zuckerberg Spend His Money On?
Like many of his fellow internet entrepreneurs, Mark Zuckerberg lives a modest and understated lifestyle. The Facebook CEO is notorious for wearing grey t-shirts, jeans, and sneakers. He also drives vehicles that all cost below $30,000 each; the Acura TSX, Honda Fit, and Volkswagen Golf GTI. He has in recent times, however, allowed himself to indulge in one Italian sports car, the Pagani Huarya, which is worth more than a million dollars.
Nevertheless, when it comes to real estate, Zuckerberg spares no expense. He owns several mouth-watering properties around the world and is in the habit of buying adjoining real estate in order to ensure that he would have absolute privacy. Some of his lavish properties include a 5,500 square feet townhouse in Mission District, San Francisco, a 3.5 acre compound in Lake Tahoe worth $22 million, and another 4,000 square feet property in Lake Tahoe worth $37 million. Zuckerberg also owns a 700-acre mega estate on the Hawaiian island of Kauai.
Despite all the above-mentioned lavish properties, Zuckerberg primarily lives at his relatively modest 5,617 square foot mansion in Palo Alto, California. Known as Crescent Park, the home features five bedrooms, five bathrooms, an entertainment pavilion, a fireplace, spa, and barbeque area. The bathroom also comes with heated floors and a deep soaking marble tub. Since moving into Park Crescent, Zuckerberg has purchased about four nearby homes to ensure complete privacy for him and his family. The Facebook founder has also designed a custom-built AI assistant for his abode. This enables him to control amenities, such as music, lights, and temperature, with just his voice.
He is Married to a Woman Who Shares His Passion for Philanthropy
Mark Zuckerberg is happily married to his long-time girlfriend, Priscilla Chan, who is a pediatrician and philanthropist. Chan was born on the 24th of February 1985 in Massachusetts and received a B.Sc. in biology from Harvard University in 2007. She then attended the University of San Francisco Medical School and qualified as a doctor in 2012.
Zuckerberg first met his wife while they were both students at Harvard. At that time, he was in trouble for launching FaceMash and everyone thought that he would be expelled. His friends even went as far as throwing him a going-away party and Chan happened to be one of the attendees. He bumped into her while they were both waiting in line for the bathroom and immediately asked her on a date. She said yes and the rest, as they say, is history.
Chan and Zuckerberg commenced their relationship in 2004 and have been together ever since then. The couple formalized their union in their Palo Alto backyard in May 2012. The wedding featured about 100 guests who initially thought that they were only attending Chan’s graduation ceremony. Zuckerberg wore a simple suit and tie while his wife stunned in a traditional wedding dress.
The couple has since become parents to two children; Maxima Chan (b. December 2015) and August Chan (b. August 2017). The birth of the couple’s children has motivated them to launch the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative (CZI) which aims to make an impact in the areas of healthcare, education, criminal justice, and immigration reforms. Chan runs the day-to-day operations of the company having quit medical practice in the year 2015.
Zuckerberg and his wife have pledged to sell 99% of their Facebook shares in their lifetime and commit some to CZI. The initiative has so far donated hundreds of millions of dollars to public schools in New Jersey and California. It also has a grand ambition to find a cure for every human ailment by the next century. In a bid to achieve the purpose, CZI has provided funding to basic research and tools. It has also supported patient-led groups.
Mark Zuckerberg is Not The Only Overachiever in His Family
Mark Zuckerberg hails from a high-flying family of six. His mother Karen is a psychiatrist while his father Edward is a dentist. The internet entrepreneur also has three sisters; Randi, Donna, and Arielle. In a February 2019 interview, Randi revealed that while they were growing up, their father made them all the offer of either going to college or starting a McDonald franchise. All four siblings choose to go the college route and the sky has been their stepping stone.
Randi is an astute business executive who formerly worked as the director of market development of Facebook. She is now the editor-in-chief of a lifestyle website know as Dot Complicated. Donna, on the other hand, is an author. She holds a Ph.D. in the classics from Princeton University and now serves as the editor-in-chief of Eidolon, an online journal that publishes non-scholarly texts about the classics.
Zuckerberg’s third sister, Arielle, holds a BSc in philosophy and public relations from Claremont McKenna College. She is now a venture capitalist and has invested in start-ups such as Flipkart, Houzz, The Wing, Willo, Voodoo Manufacturing, and Handshake. She is also a partner at Coatue Management, a hedge fund that invests in both public and private companies operating in the telecoms, media, and tech industries. They have previously invested in the likes of Uber and Snapchat.
Mark Zuckerberg’s Litany of Awards
Zuckerberg has received several accolades in recognition of all that he has been able to achieve. They include Time Magazine Person of the Year award in 2010, CEO of the Year in 2013, the Axel Springer Award (given to an outstanding entrepreneurial personality) in 2016, as well as an honorary Ph.D. from his alma mater in May 2017.
All of Mark Zuckerberg’s awards have, however, not been in a positive light. In December 2017, the Facebook CEO was dubbed the ‘misinformer of the year’ by a progressive media watchdog known as Media Matters for America. The group cited the role that Facebook played in spreading multiple fake stories during the 2016 U.S. presidential election as the reason for giving Zuckerberg the ignoble honor. They also alluded to the fact that he and his team had not done enough to tackle the menace of fake news on their site.