Tag Archive: IPO


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According to sources close to the situation, Twitter is planning on waiting until after its IPO – which is set to take place next week – to name its first woman to its board.

The move makes some level of sense, mostly because it would be difficult to have any new board member join the San Francisco-based social microblogging company now, given that that person would have to sign off on the public offering with little knowledge of its details.

Sources also added that while many are expecting Twitter to seek out a female director with media or tech experience – and there are many laudable candidates in both those areas – the company’s execs, especially CEO Dick Costolo, believe that one with international expertise is more important.

The reason is clear – Twitter is a global player, and runs into thorny issues all over the world around the proliferation of its open service. You might imagine that, in the future, as it grows, the company will face even more international conundrums that it will need a lot of mental heavy lifting to work out.

While the board had put former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on the top of its overall list, she has not been contacted about joining as a director. She’s also likely to not be available, either, especially given that she is expected to run for the Democratic nomination for president of the United States in the 2016 election.

(Sorry, but she’s busy, boys! While Twitter chairman and co-founder Jack Dorsey will be bummed, most there actually considered her a very long shot.)

The number of women with international experience is also long. But if I were to bet on whom Twitter is considering for its top picks, I would name only two: Condoleezza Rice and Madeleine Albright.

Albright, among her many diplomatic roles, was the first woman to become the Secretary of State, named in the Clinton administration. She is now a professor of international relations at Georgetown University’s Walsh School of Foreign Service (disclosure: I went there), and is also chairman of the Albright Stonebridge Group, a global strategy firm.

Also – keep up, Peter Fenton! – she is fluent in French, Russian, Czech, Polish and Serbo-Croatian, serves on important boards such as the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense Policy Board, and has written five books.

In addition – and this is just from my several encounters with her over the years – Albright takes no guff.

Neither does Rice, who also has some big cred in her corner. Along with other big government posts, she also served as Secretary of State under former President George W. Bush.

Rice also has some Silicon Valley links, both as a top administrator and professor at Stanford University, and her recent relationship with Khosla Ventures.

The VC firm signed a deal late last year with RiceHadleyGates, the international consulting firm that Rice runs, to “bring global and domestic insight to Khosla’s portfolio companies, helping them achieve their strategic goals in industries such as technology, energy, security and healthcare.”

No matter their gender – although that would also be a plus – either Rice or Albright would certainly be an asset for Twitter. The company has attracted not-undeserved scrutiny over not having a woman – or any diversity at all, really – on its board.

That board now includes: Former Netscape CFO and investor Peter Currie; former News Corp COO and Hollywood mogul Peter Chernin; Silicon Valley venture capitalist Peter Fenton, of Benchmark Capital; former DoubleClick CEO David Rosenblatt; Jack Dorsey (also CEO and founder of hot payments startup Square); co-founder and serial entrepreneur Evan Williams (now working on an innovative new publishing platform called Medium); and CEO Dick Costolo, who has already attracted controversy over the issue.

The lack of a woman on the board of a company is particularly glaring, given that numerous studies show that more women use Twitter than men, and that it is aiming to be a global company that represents, well, all of humanity.

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By now, it should be a familiar adage: For such a simple idea, Twitter is a tough service for newcomers to figure out.

But now, in the days before its IPO, the company is putting on its best face for the public.

On Monday evening, Twitter quietly rolled out an entirely new “About” section on its company homepage, giving it a near-complete visual refresh while adding a number of detailed, informative sections.

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Much of it is what you’d expect from a company on the verge of going public – a press section, a rundown of executive bios and headshots, a list of Twitter’s milestones and high-level data points.

The most telling section, though, comes at the bottom of the company’s products page, an icon that beckons you to discover what you can do with Twitter.

It is, in essence, a complete visual blueprint of what Twitter is in its most basic terms, a sort of Grey’s Anatomy for the body of a tweet. The breakdown answers simple questions – ones that someone like you, an AllThingsD reader, would likely take for granted – such as “What’s in a tweet?” and “What is following?”

It also offers a simple sign-up flow (smart for onboarding) and a host of slick design flourishes, complete with animations and a nifty tweet counter toward the bottom.

Is this all incredibly rudimentary? Yes, it is.

But, more than that, it is the long overdue arrival of what should be considered table stakes for Twitter, a company that aims to go truly mainstream upon its public market debut, come Thursday. No doubt the increased media attention, too, will drive new users and prospective investors to investigating exactly how Twitter ticks.

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To be sure, this has been a long time coming. Under comms VP Gabriel Stricker, Twitter expanded the scope of its communications department in April to include marketing duties, a move that came after previous hiring missteps.

The company has also experimented with a number of cutesy videos and data visualizations to win over laypersons. And, just a few months ago, Twitter poached former Facebook marketing head Kate Jhaveri to further expand the team.

Obviously, Twitter has much more work to do if it wants to be as easily accessible as something like, say, Facebook. An upcoming product redesign could aid the company on that front.

Still, this is a small but noteworthy step in making the service that much more digestible to the masses. And, frankly, it’s about time.

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If you haven’t had enough of high profile tech IPOs, there’s word today that another is gaining steam for sometime in 2014, this one in the enterprise cloud computing space.

Box, the fast-growing enterprise cloud computing company that has raised a combined $312 million from venture capitalists and private equity investors, has completed its bake-off of bankers, according to Reuters, and is aiming to raise $500 million in an initial public offering in early 2014. Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse and J.P. Morgan Chase will lead the offering.

Box has been hitting all the stations of the cross on its way to an IPO. Earlier this year, CEO Aaron Levie (pictured here from his appearance at D: All Things Digital in May) confirmed to AllThingsD that the company is on track to exceed $100 million in revenue this year. And while he also admitted that Box’s burn rate is typically in the “seven figure per month” range, Levie states that the company’s biggest expense is the sales and marketing people who can, as he put it, “get enterprise deals done.” In January, Levie predicted that Box would have 1,000 employees by the end of 2013, and I just heard from a source today who said that, as of October, it was already north of 900.

At the time, he said that “most” of the $150 million the company had raised in a huge Series E led by the private equity firm General Atlantic was still in the bank. Box first announced it had raised $125 million in the summer of 2012. That round was said to value the company at $1.2 billion. Investors seemed to really like Box, because by January that same round of funding had swelled to $150 million.

Before that it raised $81 million in a 2011 strategic round that included Salesforce.com and SAP Ventures.

Levie didn’t immediately answer an email, and other sources at the company were not commenting in the wake of the Reuters story.

Levie publicly said earlier this year that a Box IPO was likely for 2014, and would follow a series of moves to expand its sales footprint globally. Its first move was to add a sales office in London to go after European business.

Facebook Inc., facing multiple shareholder lawsuits related to its botched initial public offering, scored an initial legal victory when a federal judge in New York Wednesday dismissed a group of cases against the social networking company.

Last year, several Facebook investors sued the company, arguing that Facebook — which had shared internal financial forecasts with certain analysts before the IPO — was also obligated to disclose those projections in regulatory filings.

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A lot of companies aspire to have a mobile strategy, and then there are companies, like Trulia, that already have the beginnings of one.

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Pete Flint, CEO of the San Francisco-based online real estate company, told AllThingsD that traffic from mobile had increased 120 percent in the fourth quarter year over year. “Mobile is an enormous opportunity for us,” he said. “At some point in the future, we expect it to generate a majority of our revenue.”

Today, the company’s stock hit a new high, closing at $29 a share, following yesterday’s release of its fourth-quarter results.

In that quarter, the company lost $1.6 million, or six cents a share, on revenue of $20.6 million. Excluding some items, Trulia would have lost three cents. Analysts were expecting the company to lose two cents a share on revenue of $19.1 million.

Flint said the average revenue per advertiser grew in the fourth quarter because of mobile and an overall increase in prices. Trulia agents are buying ads on its apps separate from the Web because that is where they are seeing the best results — and because of that, Trulia is charging more for mobile. ”Consumers are absolutely out-and-about using the apps to browse and to connect with an agent to purchase a property,” he said.

One data point backing this up is that in 82 of the top 100 U.S. cities, he said, there are more leads being sent via mobile devices to real estate professionals than through the website.

In September, Trulia went public, pricing its shares at $17 apiece to raise roughly $85 million. Flint said in hindsight, mobile was also a big factor in the success of the offering.

“As we look back, investor concern last year was for companies to execute on mobile and to have a proven track record, and we are uniquely positioned to execute on mobile,” he said.

Trulia’s closest competitor, Zillow, reported its fourth-quarter results today, and also credited mobile for some of its growth. The Seattle-based company, which makes money from charging real-estate agents subscription fees and from advertising, said in December that more than half of its visits occurred on mobile devices, with that traffic spiking to 60 percent on weekends.

Zillow reported a profit of $500,000, or two cents a share, on revenue of $34.3 million. Analysts were expecting the company to break even on revenue of $31.5 million. The company’s stock surged in after-hours trading, jumping 7 percent, or $2.88 a share, to close at $41.85.

The market values Zillow at roughly $1.3 billion, about double Trulia’s current market cap.

One lone analyst believes that Groupon has a chance to evolve beyond its current daily deals business.

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Sterne Agee’s Arvind Bhatia upgraded Groupon to “buy” from “neutral” this morning, sending the company’s stock up 27 cents, or 5 percent, to $5.56 a share in afternoon trading. At one point in pre-market trading, the stock hit as much as $5.74.

While those gains are significant considering where the shares have been trading for the past few months, the stock overall is still down more than 70 percent since Groupon’s IPO in November.

Bhatia acknowledged how out of sync his upgrade is with the bigger picture: “This is an out-of-consensus upgrade predicated on a more constructive longer-term view of the company,” he wrote in a letter to investors. He also warned that the upgrade was not a reflection of the company’s fourth-quarter results, which are being released on Feb. 27. (Bhatia believes the stock can go as high as $9 over the next 12 months.)

Rather, his thesis is based on the belief that the Chicago company — and therefore its CEO and founder Andrew Mason — can execute on a number of fronts, by turning around its international business and leveraging its mobile commerce foothold. And, even more importantly, he believes that Groupon can evolve beyond its core push business of delivering offers by email to a model where consumers will discover deals on the site through search engines and direct traffic to the site.

In November, I wrote about this evolution to a marketplace approach, which Groupon was rolling out in Chicago and New York. At the time, Jeff Holden, the company’s SVP of Product, explained that Groupon had mastered serendipity by sending offers to people they thought might like them.

But now they are trying to become a destination where people shop for things they already know they are looking to buy. In a handful of markets, consumers can now browse and search a catalog of offers – they don’t disappear after one day. Categories span everything from local deals, including auto, restaurants and spas, to products, like bed linens and pet care.

At the time, Groupon said it had amassed 27,000 deals in North America as part of the company’s new direction. That will be a critical number to watch, since having a lot of inventory will be a crucial component to its success.

Bhatia claims that the benefit to this approach is that the deals can now be marketed effectively through search engines, like Google and Bing, as opposed to sending emails (which people are tiring of). “Currently less than 5 percent of Groupon’s revenue comes from search engine marketing,” he wrote. “In contrast, an estimated 25 percent of queries on search engines are local and 50 percent of mobile searches are for local, which suggests meaningful untapped opportunity.”

Rakesh Agrawal, a business consultant and outspoken critic on Groupon, disagreed with the company’s prospects of using Google and Bing to drive sales going forward. “Search marketing is a much more complicated sell,” he said. “Even if it were successful, the revenue they could generate pales in comparison with what daily deals were throwing off.”

Groupon is expecting fourth-quarter revenue ranging between $625 million and $675 million, an increase of 27 percent to 37 percent, compared with the same period a year earlier. It expects income from operations to be between breakeven and $20 million, compared with a loss of $15 million in the fourth-quarter 2011. Analysts are forecasting a loss of two cents a share.

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