10 Things You Didn’t Know About Zynga CEO Mark Pincus

DATE: December 15, 2011

FarmVille.  Mafia Wars.  Words With Friends.

Any of those ring a bell?  Each game is owned by Zynga, one of the biggest social gaming companies in the world.  Its CEO, Mark Pincus, is about to take the company public, meaning more eyes are now on him.  So what sets this billionaire apart from other chief executives?

Well, here are 10 things for starters.

1. Pincus is an avid gamer himself.

As a kid, Pincus grew up playing outdoor and video games. Obviously, he never grew out of that.  Today he enjoys playing games with his own family.

2. Zynga is named after Pincus’ bulldog.

Pincus once had an American bulldog named Zinga. Wanting his company to be just as loyal and spirited as his dog, Pincus called it “Zynga.”

3. ScamVille

After allowing what many people thought were deceptive advertisers into Zynga’s games, the blogosphere erupted with accusations.  One was TechCrunch, who labeled the questionable practice “ScamVille.”

4. He thinks toasts ruin weddings.

He didn’t want any toasts on his wedding day, so he made sure to have those the night before – and even then the toasters were only allowed three minutes.

5. Pincus has a sharp elbow.

Pincus often brags about being fired from a job because he was not patient with his bosses.  The fire behind his irreverent style? Mark Pincus has a strong desire to control his own destiny.

6. Pincus was hoping not to make Forbes’ list this year.

As one of Forbes’ seven new “Facebook billionaires” Pincus got the fame he’d hoped to avoid. He thinks being famous for having a lot of money is “socially awkward.”

7. He refuses to email potential investors his powerpoints.

Learning a lot over the years about entrepreneurship, Pincus counsels others to never email potential investors your powerpoint: “Don’t email anything you wouldn’t want posted on the web for all your competitors to see.”

8. The first time Pincus met his wife, he asked about baby names.

When Pincus met his wife, Alison, he asked her what she thought about the names Carmen and Georgia. He told her he wasn’t interested in dating anyone who didn’t like those names. Mark and Alison now have twin daughters, named Carmen and Georgia.

9. He’s all about private coaches.

When he felt like his business wasn’t progressing, Pincus went to motivational seminars and hired a life coach. He thinks having private coaches is a great advantage – which must be why he also has a private tennis coach, a skiing coach, and a yoga instructor.

10. Pincus believes everybody should be the CEO of something.

Pincus’ trademark philosophy is one of empowering the individual.  Ownership and decision-making are pushed to those closest to the task. In fact, some of Zynga’s most successful games, like Mafia Wars, came while Pincus was away on vacation.