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Top 40 richest list: Zuckerberg flames out as super-billionaire. Does it matter?

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Noah Kalina Photography/Facebook/AP/File

(Read caption) This photo provided by Facebook and released last week shows Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Priscilla Chan at their wedding ceremony in Palo Alto, Calif., earlier this month. On May 30, Mr. Zuckerberg fell off Bloomberg's Top 40 richest list, but chances are he has more important things facing him.

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Mark Zuckerberg got to be a super billionaire for all of 12 days.

On May 18, when his company went public, the Facebook CEO was instantly No. 29 on Bloomberg's Top 40 richest list. By May 30, as Facebook's value continued to plummet, he'd fallen off the list altogether.

Ah well, easy come, easy go. Instead of $19.4 billion, Mr. Zuckerberg's net worth is only $14.4 billion, less than a third the wealth of No. 1 billionaire Carlos Slim HelĂș or No. 2 Bill Gates.

To most people, the loss of $5 billion in less than two weeks might matter a lot. Understandably.

But if you were 28 years old, and in those two weeks you had launched one of the most closely watched initial public offerings in years, gotten married, sold off $1.1 billion in stock mostly just to pay taxes, and seen your life's work stumble embarrassingly on Wall Street, it's probably fair to say you'd have more important things on your mind.

For all the criticism that's been heaped on him in the past several days, Zuckerberg appears to be the real deal as a visionary entrepreneur. He has not tried to cash out from Facebook. He still has major skin in the game, owning more Facebook shares than anyone else. He seems committed to building it into a great tech company the way that Steve Jobs, Bill Gates, and the founders of Google built iconic tech companies did before him.

If anything, Facebook is losing value not because it has become too commercialized but because it has refrained from trying to make a killing on advertising (or has not yet figured out how to do it). 

Either way, don't count Zuckerberg out. A fortnight of Wall Street Sturm und Drang is hardly a reliable bellwether for the long-term prospects of young, committed innovators.

None of this means that Facebook is necessarily worth $38 a share (its opening price) or $28 a share (its current price). Ultimately, its value will turn on how much Facebook influences social media and whether it can monetize that influence.

Those questions, I suspect, loom far larger for one particular 28-year-old than the paper loss of $5 billion or whether he figures on someone's Top 40 richest list.

For visionary entrepreneurs, it's not about the money. It's about the future. 

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