4 Reasons to Love the Facebook IPO
No, seriously. It may sound a little like "4 Reasons to Love the Sinking of the Titanic," but there are many reasons that the famously disastrous Facebook offering was a positive event, for the company itself and even for its shareholders.
And it certainly shouldn't frighten any business owner considering an IPO of his or her own. Consider:
1. Facebook didn't screw up its IPO. Bankers did.
Anyone who's studied business management for five minutes knows the term "core competency." High finance is not a core competency for Facebook. So while the IPO was indisputably botched, it was Morgan Stanley that did the botching, first by pricing the stock too high, and then by giving some but not all clients a warning about Facebook's mobile revenue challenges. The result is that many small investors charged in while some institutional investors sat on their hands. To make matters worse, a Nasdaq glitch delayed the start of trading, a goof for which the exchange has offered some customers a total of $40 million compensation.
It's all caused a lot of ill will, not to mention lawsuits and a Federal investigation. But the ire should be directed at the bankers involved in the deal--it doesn't reflect badly on Facebook as a company. Facebook executives seem to know this; they're proceeding with business as usual.
2. Shareholders will be good for Zuck.
One of the biggest frustrations for Facebook users, not to mention businesses attempting to use the site as part of a promotional effort, is the frequent and sometimes disorienting changes to policy and the way Facebook works overall. First there were fan pages, then likes, then subscriptions. And now a timeline. Alterations to the service's security policies have been too numerous to count.
At the center of all this rapid change is a 28-year-old CEO who's accustomed to getting what he wants, and making quick decisions without always telling everyone everything. His recent wedding is a great example: Guests arrived thinking they were simply attending his girlfriend's graduation party.
Having shareholders and analysts to answer to, and a marketplace that will react harshly if he does something it doesn't like may force Mark Zuckerberg to temper his shoot-from-the-hip approach. That could be very beneficial for Facebook.
3. Facebook's diving into mobile.
Much of the IPO trouble grew out of the company's admission that much of its traffic comes from mobile devices, where Facebook has so far been unable to monetize advertising effectively. But now that mobile has marred Facebook's IPO--and even inspired the bizarre suggestion that the company might be doomed altogether--it's moving aggressively to do something about it.
In the last 48 hours, the company has announced a new, more seamless mobile payment system, several new mobile security features, and of course, its new App Center, which will feature a collection of Facebook-approved apps for users to buy or download from the Android Market or Apple App Store. Apps will be suggested in part based on your preferences and what your friends are using.
This last item is likely to resonate with users. Android has become the most widespread operating system for smartphones, but the Android Market seems like a free-for-all. Giving users a quick way to navigate to the apps they might like best seems a likely winner. Couple that with Facebook's own branded smartphone--which appears to be on its way--and you'd have a powerful combination. The adolescents and 20-somethings who make up the most devoted market for smartphones just happen to be Facebook's most committed customers as well.
4. Thanks to the IPO, Facebook has lots of cash.
The point of the IPO was to raise capital, and at $38 a share, Facebook walked away with $16 billion, whatever may have happened to investors from that point on. This means the company has plenty of cash for whatever initiatives, mobile or otherwise, it takes on next.
This may not seem much comfort to investors who bought shares at $38, or at their high of $45, only to watch them plummet to $27. But buying stock for a quick profit is as risky as buying a house that you plan to flip. Both should be long-term investments.
From a long-term point of view, remember that the company has 900 million active users--that's three times the entire population of the United States. And remember Amazon's IPO 15 years ago. The initial offering was at $18, but then, like Facebook, instead of the expected "bump," share prices sank and stayed down for months. A year later, the price had quadrupled. It's well over $200 today.
MINDA ZETLIN | Columnist | Co-author, The Geek Gap
Minda Zetlin is a business technology writer and speaker, co-author of The Geek Gap, and president of the American Society of Journalists and Authors.