Mark Pincus

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Mark Pincus
Pincus in 2010
Born Mark Jonathan Pincus
(1966-02-13) February 13, 1966 (age 51)
Chicago, Illinois
Residence San Francisco
Nationality United States
Alma mater B.S. University of Pennsylvania
M.B.A. Harvard University
Occupation CEO and Chairman of the Board of Directors at Zynga (formerly Chief Product Officer)[1][2]
Net worth Increase US$1.1 billion (June 2015)[3]
Spouse(s) Ali Gelb[4]
Children 3
Parent(s) Donna
Theodore Pincus

Mark Jonathan Pincus (born February 13, 1966)[5] is an American Internet entrepreneur best known as the co-founder of Zynga, which makes online social games. Pincus also founded Freeloader, Inc., Tribe Networks, and[6] Pincus served as the CEO of Zynga until July 2013. Zynga's top games include: Bubble Safari, CastleVille, ChefVille, CityVille, CityVille 2, CoasterVille, Draw Something, FarmVille, Yoville, FarmVille 2, Zynga Poker, Mafia Wars, Empires & Allies, Words with Friends, Hanging with Friends and Scramble with Friends.

Pincus was named 2009 "CEO of the Year"[7] at The Crunchies technology awards[8] and a year later was named Founder of the Year at the 2010 ceremony.[9] Zynga is considered to be the pioneer of the social gaming industry,[10] which is expected to reach $5.5 billion by 2015[needs update]. Within four years after Pincus founded Zynga, the company had grown to a $1 billion company.[11]

Early life and background[edit]

Pincus was born into a Jewish family[12] in Chicago and raised in Chicago's Lincoln Park neighborhood. He is the son of Donna (née Forman) and Theodore Pincus.[13][14] His father was a business columnist and public relations adviser to CEOs and politicians[15] and his mother was an architect.[16] He has two sisters: Laura Pincus Hartman and Susan Pincus Sherman.[13] His father later married Sherri (née Barr, of Milwaukee) and his mother later married Sheldon Meyers, of Chicago; and he now has 18 additional step-sisters and one step-brother, Anne Zitron Casey, Jennifer Zitron Suomi, Annie Meyers Ashe and David Meyers.[citation needed]

Pincus attended Francis W. Parker School from kindergarten through 12th grade and graduated in 1984.[17] He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Economics from the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Harvard Business School.[18] where he founded the Communications Club with Sherry Coutu.[19]


Before he became an entrepreneur, Pincus worked in venture capital and financial services for six years. Pincus spent two years as a financial analyst for Lazard Freres & Co. after graduating from Wharton. After that time, he moved to Hong Kong, where he served as a Vice President for Asian Capital Partners for two years.[citation needed]

He returned to the United States in order to attend Harvard Business School (HBS) where he was a contemporary of Chris Hohn, Guy Spier and Chris Shumway. He graduated in 1993[20] and also spent a summer as an associate for Bain & Co. in 1992.[21]

After Pincus graduated from Harvard Business School, he took a job as a manager of corporate development at Tele-Communications, Inc., which is now AT&T Cable. A year later, he joined Columbia Capital as Vice President, where he led investments in new media and software startups in Washington, D.C. for a year.[citation needed]

In 1995, Pincus launched his first startup, Freeloader, Inc., a web-based push technology service which was acquired seven months later by Individual, Inc., for $38 million.[22]

He then started his second company,, in August 1997. As Chairman and CEO, Pincus built the company into a leading provider of service and support automation software. The company went public in July 2000.[23] In 2002, the company changed its name from to SupportSoft, Inc.[24]

In 2003, at age 37, Pincus founded his third startup,, an early social network.[25] partnered with major local newspapers and was backed by Guy Spier, The Washington Post, Knight Ridder Digital, and Mayfield Fund. In 2007, Cisco Systems acquired the core technology assets of to develop a social networking platform for its digital media services group.[26]

In 2003, Pincus and Reid Hoffman purchased the Six Degrees patent, a broad, sweeping patent that describes a social network service that is the heart of social networks from the extinct sixdegrees company for $700,000.[27]

Pincus was a founding investor in Napster, Facebook, Friendster, and Twitter.[28][29] In 2015, Pincus invested in the nootropics company Nootrobox.[30]


Pincus co-founded his fourth company, Zynga Inc., alongside Justin Waldron, Eric Schiermeyer, Michael Luxton, and Steve Schoettler.[31] in July 2007 and served as CEO until July 2013.[32] Zynga develops social games played on various social networks including Facebook, as well as on mobile devices including the Android, iPhone and iPad. Zynga currently boasts 123 million monthly active users[33] across its network of games, which include Bubble Safari, CastleVille, CityVille, CityVille 2, CoasterVille, ChefVille, Draw Something, FarmVille, FarmVille 2, Zynga Poker, Mafia Wars, Empires & Allies, Words with Friends, Hanging with Friends and Scramble with Friends. In addition to making its own games, Zynga has created a network that allows third-party developers to become part of the Zynga network. Zynga claims to be the largest social game network on the web.[34]

In a video posted on November 9, 2009, Pincus said, "I did every horrible thing in the book, too, just to get revenues right away. I mean we gave our users poker chips if they downloaded this Zwinky toolbar which was like, I don't know, I downloaded it once and couldn't get rid of it,".[35] Pincus noted that after offering the Zwinky toolbar, he and his team decided to remove it because it was a "painful experience."[36]

In October 2009, Pincus started, which is "committed to transforming the world through virtual social goods".[37] has since raised more than $15 million[38] for several international nonprofits[39] by occasionally selling virtual goods for charitable causes.[40]

In 2010, some criticized for keeping up to 50 percent of the donations it collected for Haiti earthquake relief. The criticisms were based on a Brazilian magazine article but were widely reported over social media and the blogosphere. Follow-up articles reported that had in fact confused its users about its actual donations to Haiti relief efforts .[40][41]

On March 11, 2011, Zynga announced that 100 percent of the proceeds from the purchase of virtual goods from more than seven of its games would go toward Japan's Save the Children Earthquake Emergency Fund.[42][43] During the 2012 holiday season, partnered with Toys for Tots in its largest charitable campaign not related to disaster relief. The campaign raised $745,000, with 100 percent of the purchase price of certain virtual goods going to Toys for Tots.[38]

On July 1, 2013, it was confirmed that Don Mattrick, the former president of Interactive Entertainment Business at Microsoft, was to succeed Pincus as CEO.[44] Pincus also stepped down from his role as chief product officer to focus on his role as chairman of the board, the company announced in April 2014.[2]

On April 8, 2015, it was announced that Pincus would return to Zynga as CEO.[45]

On March 1, 2016, it was announced that Frank Gibeau would succeed Pincus as CEO while Pincus would serve as Chairman of the Board.[46]

Personal life[edit]

Pincus has lived in several cities across the U.S., including Philadelphia, Boston, Washington, D.C. and Denver. He currently resides in San Francisco with his wife, Ali Pincus (née Gelb) and their three children.[47][48][49] His wife is the founder of One Kings Lane, a furniture and home accessories sales website.[50]


  1. ^ "Zynga Names Don Mattrick Chief Executive Officer". Zynga. 2013-07-02. 
  2. ^ a b King, Rachel (April 23, 2014). "Zynga's latest unraveling: Pincus out as product chief". Retrieved April 25, 2014. 
  3. ^ Forbes: "The World's Billionaires: Mark Pincus" January 2015
  4. ^ "Zynga falters in debut, sheds doubt on IPO market". Reuters. 2011-12-16. 
  5. ^ "So What Do You Do, Mark Pincus, CEO of Zynga?". 16 September 2009. Retrieved 23 June 2010. 
  6. ^ Miguel Helft (July 24, 2010). "Will Zynga Become the Google of Games?". New York Times. Retrieved 2010-07-24. A serial entrepreneur, he sold his first company, Freeloader, an early Internet broadcast service, for $38 million, and took public his second, a business software maker called 
  7. ^ VentureBeat January 2010[link]
  8. ^ TechCrunch January 2010. Retrieved on 2011-11-13.
  9. ^ Congratulations Crunchies Winners! Twitter Takes Best Startup Of 2010. TechCrunch (2011-01-21). Retrieved on 2011-11-13.
  10. ^ Kesarios, George. "Can Zynga Execute In The Online Gambling Space?". Blog Post. Seeking Alpha. Retrieved 4 February 2013. 
  11. ^ Pepitone, Julianne (1 July 2011). "Zynga files for $1 billion IPO". CNNMoney. Retrieved 4 February 2013. 
  12. ^ Hareetz: "One day in Silicon Valley" by Guy Rolnick August 3, 2010
  13. ^ a b Chicago Sun Times: "Ted Pincus, PR specialist, Sun-Times columnist, dies" BY DAVID ROEDER September 30, 2011
  14. ^ New York Times: "Paid Notice: Deaths PINCUS, THEODORE" October 4, 2011
  15. ^ Chicago Sun-Times: "Mark Pincus creates an empire with games designed for Facebook" By Sandra Guy March 27, 2011
  16. ^ Businessweek: "Zynga IPO Tests CEO's 'Fearsome' Negotiating Style" By Douglas MacMillan December 12, 2011
  17. ^ "Corner Office Are You CEO of Something?". The New York Times. Jan 30, 2010. 
  18. ^ "BusinessWeek Executive Profile Mark Pincus". BusinessWeek. Retrieved 23 June 2010. 
  19. ^ "Entrepreneur Profile on Mark Pincus". Entrepreneur Ideas. Retrieved 15 November 2015. 
  20. ^ Harvard Business School NamesThirteen Entrepreneurs-in-Residence – Harvard Business School. (2011-10-04). Retrieved on 2011-11-13.
  21. ^ "Mark Pincus Background". Mark Pincus Blog. Retrieved 2010-07-15. 
  22. ^ "Mark Pincus". startup2startup. Retrieved 2010-07-15. 
  23. ^ "SUPPORT COM INC S-1 Filing". Edgar. Retrieved 2010-07-15. 
  24. ^ AllBusiness March 2002[link]
  25. ^ Malik, Om. "Cisco's wrong bet on Social Networks". Blog. GigaOM. Retrieved 4 February 2013. 
  26. ^ Stone, Brad (March 3, 2007). "Social Networking's Next Phase". New York Times. 
  27. ^ Kirkpatrick, David (2010). The Facebook Effect: The Inside Story of the Company That Is Connecting the World. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 1-4391-0211-2. 
  28. ^ "Zynga's Mark Pincus Talks About His Management Style, Acquisitions and Mobile". Video. All Things D. Retrieved 4 February 2013. 
  29. ^ Rivlin, Gary. "Friendster, Love and Money". Technology. The New York Times. Retrieved 4 February 2013. 
  30. ^ "Marissa Mayer and Mark Pincus invested in a startup that makes 'brain drugs' and chewable coffee", Business Insider, October 13, 2015 
  31. ^ Lynley, Matt. "What Happened To The Founding Team Behind The Largest IPO Since Google". Tech. Business Insider. Retrieved 4 February 2013. 
  32. ^ "About-Team". Zynga. Retrieved 2010-07-15. 
  33. ^ MacMillan, Douglas (6 February 2013). "Zynga Tops Profit, Sales Estimates as It Cuts Costs". Bloomberg. Retrieved 11 February 2013. 
  34. ^ CrunchBase. CrunchBase. Retrieved on 2011-11-13.
  35. ^ Michael Arrington (6 November 2009). "Zynga CEO Mark Pincus: "I Did Every Horrible Thing In The Book Just To Get Revenues"". Techcrunch. Retrieved 14 March 2009. 
  36. ^ Pincus, Mark. "To Zwink or Not?". Mark Pincus' Blog. Retrieved 4 February 2013. 
  37. ^ Web 2 Summit. Web 2 Summit. Retrieved on 2011-11-13.
  38. ^ a b " – A Digital Giving Year in Review". Blog. Zynga. Retrieved 4 February 2013. 
  39. ^ FarmVille Crops for a Cause.. (2011-03-28). Retrieved on August 30, 2011.
  40. ^ a b Zynga Will No Longer Take A Cut Of Charitable Donations. (2010-11-16). Retrieved on July 9, 2011.
  41. ^ Ingram, Mathew (4 March 2010). "Zynga Gets Unfairly Slammed Over Haiti Donations". GigaOM. Retrieved 4 February 2013. 
  42. ^ Zynga Enables Donations To Tsunami Relief Through In-Game Purchases. TechCrunch (2011-03-11). Retrieved on September 23, 2011.
  43. ^ Save the Children and Zynga Team Up to Help Japan Disaster Relief Efforts. Save The Children (2011-03-12). Retrieved on September 23, 2011.
  44. ^ Nayak, Malathi. "Confirmed: Xbox One boss Don Mattrick 'resigns'". Retrieved 1 July 2013. 
  45. ^
  46. ^ "CEO Update". Retrieved 1 March 2016. 
  47. ^ Business Insider: "The 11 Hottest Power Couples In Tech" by Jay Yarow February 14, 2011
  48. ^ JetLib News November 2010. Retrieved on 2011-11-13.
  49. ^ Fast "Allison Gelb Pincus retrieved July 21, 2012
  50. ^ San Francisco Gate: "One Kings Lane delivers design, business smarts" August 9, 2009

External links[edit]