Facebook Chief Focused More on Growth Than Money

by VR Sreeraman on Nov 7 2008 5:06 PM

 Facebook Chief Focused More on Growth Than Money
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said Thursday his fast-rising social networking website is focused on spreading around the world, not pumping cash into its coffers.
Zuckerberg dismissed any notion that Facebook is under pressure to justify a 15 billion dollar market valuation resulting from software giant Microsoft last year paying 240 million dollars for a 1.6 percent stake in the young California company.

"We don't feel any pressure," Zuckerberg said during an on-stage chat at a Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco.

"We are just going to do the best we can in terms of being used by people around the world. On a day-to-day basis, there is no thought to needing to do something to justify a 15-billion-dollar valuation."

Zuckerberg said that Facebook's priority this year has been attracting new users internationally. Membership at Facebook has reportedly more than doubled this year to nearly 125 million people.

Since Facebook is advertising support, beefing up ranks of users bodes well for the firm's revenues.

Zuckerberg credited some of the growth to modifying Facebook to allow translations into 20 languages.

"Growth is a really important strategic thing for us," Zuckerberg said. "Take France for example. It is really exciting there."

Facebook hasn't posted a profit since it was launched in February of 2004 by Zuckerberg, now 24 years old, while he was a sophomore at Harvard University.

Facebook membership leapt to seven percent in France after page translations were added earlier this year and is on pace to be 25 or 30 percent by this time in 2009.

"We want to make sure people around the world can share their information," Zuckerberg said. "Some people have taken that to mean we are not focused on maximizing revenue; that is completely wrong."

Facebook is beefing up its advertising sales force and its annual revenues are "hundreds of millions of dollars and growing strong," the chief executive said, while declining to specify how much money the company makes.

Despite rumors to the contrary, there is no "hiring freeze" at Facebook, which has about 700 workers and is recruiting engineering and sales talent, Zuckerberg said.

Facebook has no plans to go public with an initial stock offering, especially given dismal conditions in financial markets.

"I think the (Microsoft) deal was more than the investment; it was really a partnership," Zuckerberg said. "A lot of people obsess about the price. They have been a good fit for us. Some people are surprised by that."

Microsoft serves up targeted advertising on Facebook and handles Internet searches at the website.

"They are in a place where they want to try new things," Zuckerberg said of Microsoft.

"I think we are both really happy with the rate at which we are experimenting with new things.

While Facebook claims no intention of opening the platform of its "walled garden" to let users freely move data to other social networking websites, it sees the industry inevitably moving toward such openness.

"I think as time goes on we will see this big fanning out, and I see it as Facebook's role to keep pushing that," Zuckerberg said.


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