Mark Zuckerberg: Not Ready For Prime Time?

Mark Zuckerberg is 23 years old. He founded the social networking site Facebook while he was still in college. He's made the mistake most bright people make when one of their notions becomes wildly popular overnight: He's thinks it has nothing to do with luck, or being in the right place at the right time.  Unchastened by his foolhardy foray into Big Brother spying on his customers with the Beacon widget, he continues to behave like what he is:  an inexperienced businessman in charge of a suddenly prominent business.

Want to know about how privately held Facebook is doing from a financial point of view? Well, just ask Mark Zuckerberg!

This afternoon, at an all-hands meeting held in a Palo Alto, Ca. theater near the social networking site’s headquarters, the 23-year-old founder was quite voluble on that topic, outlining numbers that a more experienced CEO might think twice about unveiling to a large audience.

With an open dial-in number! Many employees, in fact, were horrified that Zuckerberg would be so blabby about such important financial information. Others loved it. Most were simply surprised (although, to be fair, Google Co-Founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin used to give a lot of detailed company info to their employees before going public, but in coordination with other execs).

“I can’t believe he was doing it,” said one. “It was really unbelievable.”

The real problem for Zuckerberg is that the numbers he reported are slightly bizarre and are opening up all sorts of questions outside his business. He's got 450 employees and revenues of $150 million for 2007. Then he announced he was going to hire 550 more people in 2008, hoping to gross $350 million, and net $50 million. But he also announced that he'd need to spend $200 million dollars to earn that $50 million, a $150 million loss. And all this on the same day that Google announced they have no idea how to make money selling ads on NewsCorp's competitor to Facebook, MySpace. And Sergey Brin, one of Google's founders, is a wildly experienced and ancient 34 year old.