Mark Zuckerberg is the founder, chair, and CEO of Facebook (FB). Here's how he built the vastly successful social media business.

Key Takeaways

  • Zuckerberg and friends built what would become Facebook out of his dorm room at Harvard; today it has a market cap of $932 billion.
  • Facebook, along with Instagram (which it owns), and rival Twitter, are three of the most influential social networking sites in the world.
  • After much speculation, Facebook banned former President Donald Trump indefinitely from its network in January 2021, in response to the capital riots.
  • In May 2021, Facebook's oversight board determined Facebook was right to ban Trump, but wrong to make the ban indefinite, rather than a set amount of time.
  • Zuckerberg's personal net worth is $119 billion as of May 2021.

Early Life and Education

Mark Zuckerberg was born on May 14, 1984, in White Plains, New York, and was raised in nearby Dobbs Ferry. He was born into a well-educated family and developed an interest in computer programming at an early age.

At the age of 12, Zuckerberg created a messaging program named Zucknet that he implemented as an inter-office communication system for his father's dental practice. Due to his early signs of success, his parents got him a computer programming tutor while he was still in high school, and they enrolled him in a prep school in New Hampshire. After graduating from prep school, Zuckerberg enrolled at Harvard University.

Success Story

While many intelligent people attend Harvard University, Mark Zuckerberg became known quickly as the go-to computer programmer on campus. By his sophomore year, he had already built two programs: CourseMatch and FaceMash. Both programs became wildly popular, but the university shut down the latter program after it was deemed to be inappropriate.

Based on his acclaim on campus, Zuckerberg partnered with friends to create a social networking site that allowed Harvard students to connect with each other. The site officially went live in June 2004 under the name "The Facebook," and Zuckerberg ran it out of his dorm room.

After his sophomore year, Zuckerberg dropped out of college to pursue what was now called Facebook, full-time. The website reached one million users by the end of 2004.

This explosion of user growth attracted the attention of many venture capital (VC) firms, and Zuckerberg eventually moved out to Silicon Valley in 2005. Facebook received its first round of venture capital investments from Accel Partners, which invested $12.7 million in the site that was still only open to Ivy League students.

By the end of 2005, however, Facebook had opened up to students attending other schools, causing the website to reach 5.5 million users. Since 2005, Facebook received numerous acquisition offers from the likes of Yahoo and Microsoft, has been through legal battles, and has greatly increased its user base.

On April 28, 2021, Facebook released first-quarter earnings for 2021. The company reported quarterly revenue of $26.17 billion, up 48% from the year-earlier quarter, surpassing estimates, as well as higher earnings per share and net income. Monthly active users, a key metric, totaled 2.85 billion, an increase of 10% year-over-year.

As of Jan. 30, 2020, the company has a market cap of $932 billion. Zuckerberg owns over 375 million Facebook shares and holds 60% of voting rights in the company.

Mark Zuckerberg has a net worth of $119 billion as of May 30, 2021.

Current Influence

Zuckerberg—who has a net worth of $119 billion as of May 2021—has signed the Giving Pledge, which means he will donate at least 50% of his net worth to philanthropic causes before he dies. In 2010, for example, he donated more than $100 million to save the Newark school system in New Jersey.

When his daughter Max was born in 2015, Zuckerberg and his wife Priscilla Chan authored an open letter in which they pledged to give away 99% of their net worth during their lifetime. However, many have criticized the method by which Zuckerberg is donating his fortune. The charitable foundation Zuckerberg and Chan have set up is a limited-liability corporation, not a charitable trust. This decision allows the two to do things that charitable trusts are not allowed to do, which in turn could make the foundation more effective, though it might also benefit their family more than a traditional trust.

Corporations can make for-profit investments and political donations. Unlike charitable trusts, corporations are not required to report their political donations.

Cambridge Analytica and Trump Ban

In April 2018, Zuckerberg testified before Congress after it was revealed that the company had shared users' data with the political consulting firm Cambridge Analytica. Forbes has credited the quick drop of Facebook’s stock price following the company's July warning to investors of slowing growth and profit margins to the growing impact of the battle between profit and privacy, citing the Cambridge Analytica story and Facebook's growing inability to protect users from harmful misuse and misinformation.

More recently, on January 7, 2021, Facebook banned former President Donald Trump from Facebook and Instagram indefinitely, after he expressed support for the rioters at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6. On May 5, 2021, Facebook's oversight board said that the company was right to ban Trump, but wrong to make the ban indefinite, and that it must decide whether the suspension is for a set period of time, or permanent.