Facebook The Largest Internet IPO In History

May 18, 2012
Originally published on May 18, 2012 4:34 pm
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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Melissa Block.


And I'm Robert Siegel. Facebook, the social media titan, got a lot more social today. It is now a publicly traded company. After a delay and some glitches, the company's shares began trading on NASDAQ. They didn't pop, but they didn't swoon either. At the end of the day, Facebook's stock finished just a tad above its opening price of $38 a share. As NPR's Steve Henn reports, the message at Facebook's Menlo Park headquarters was simple: stay focused.

STEVE HENN, BYLINE: Facebook's motto, internally in the early days, was move fast and break things. It took on Internet giants by being nimble. Its culture was flat. Five years ago, a brand new engineer sent out an email to everyone at the company and organized an all-night coding marathon - a hackathon - in just minutes. These hackathons are Red Bull-fueled brainstorming sessions, and some of Facebook's most successful products, such as the like button, have grown out of them.

Last night, Facebook held its 31st hackathon. The message: Nothing here is going to change. We'll still move fast. We will still break things.


HENN: When it was all over, a cheering crowd gathered in the middle of Facebook's campus.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #1: All right, everyone, are you ready?

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN #2: (Unintelligible).


HENN: Then Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook's 28-year-old CEO, rang the opening bell on the NASDAQ stock exchange, and Facebook began its life as a public company. It was a party. Sheryl Sandberg, Facebook's COO, was bouncing on her toes. And then pretty quickly, it was over. David Sze says employees milled around, snapped some photos and in about 20 minutes headed back to work. Sze is one of Facebook's early backers. Greylock, the venture capital firm where he's a partner, invested $12 million in the company back in 2006. Today, that investment is worth 200 times what he paid.

DAVID SZE: That's about right.

HENN: Their stake is worth hundreds of millions.

SZE: Actually, I think it's more than that. It's over $1 billion.

HENN: Sze's firm sold a couple of hundred million dollars of Facebook's stock this morning. But most little mom-and-pop investors didn't get a crack at buying any from him. Like in most IPOs, the vast majority of stock that's sold by insiders or the company itself went to institutional investors or wealthy individuals. Little retail investors had to wait until the stock began trading publicly.

STEPHEN KAY: I had a phone call from one of our online brokers this morning.

HENN: Steve Kay is managing director of the Knight Group.

KAY: And they were flooded with hundreds and hundreds of orders. It was almost like people were sitting by their desktop waiting for them to be open to trade so they could put in their buy orders.

HENN: His company executes these kinds of small-stock orders on behalf of brokerages. He says he's never seen demand quite like this in the first few hours from small investors.

KAY: I think it's safe to say it's been unprecedented.

HENN: Some would-be buyers got pretty aggressive with their offers.

KAY: We had - somebody wanted to buy as high as $4,000.

HENN: A share. Because of crazy bids like that, it took almost two hours for trading to start. Then there were glitches. At one point, Facebook shares were actually trading down. By mid-afternoon, the mania many had anticipated had faded. Facebook shares were basically flat, and David Sze was already looking for the next big thing.

SZE: Well, I think the question that everyone always asks is where is the next Facebook?

HENN: And you didn't have to travel far from Facebook's headquarters to find a tech giant in trouble. A couple of miles away at Hewlett-Packard, employees there were rattled by a report that firm could announce 30,000 layoffs next week. Steve Henn, NPR News, Silicon Valley. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.