Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 1 October 2014

Facebook chief comes out fighting

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg at a conference organised by technology blog TechCrunch in San Francisco (AP/Eric Risberg)

Facebook boss Mark Zuckerberg said he had not enjoyed seeing his company's stock pummelled on Wall Street this summer, but was relishing the opportunity to prove his critics wrong.

"I would rather be in a cycle where people underestimate us because I'd rather be underestimated," chief executive Mr Zuckerberg said. "I think it gives us the latitude to go out and make some big bets."

Mr Zuckerberg, 28, made his remarks before a standing-room-only audience at a tech conference in San Francisco in his first interview since Facebook's rocky initial public offering in May.

The social networking leader's stock has lost nearly half its value since the IPO. More than 50 billion dollars (£31.2 billion) has been lopped off Facebook's market value as the company's shares have fallen from 38 dollars to Tuesday's closing price of 19.43.

No-one has lost as much as Mr Zuckerberg, who has seen the value of his Facebook holdings fall about more than nine billion dollars (£5.6 billion) - that while hearing more sceptics second-guess his ability to lead the company that he founded eight years ago in his Harvard University dormitory.

Since speaking during Facebook's first earnings conference call as a public company nearly seven weeks ago, Mr Zuckerberg has remained largely out of the spotlight.

Wearing a grey T-shirt, jeans and trainers, Mr Zuckerberg looked at ease through his half-hour appearance. He smiled frequently and even chuckled a few times before the San Francisco audience composed largely of fellow geeks who, like him, tend to enjoy talking about computer coding and building cool products instead of discussing revenue growth and business strategies.

Yet he clearly was aiming many of his remarks at investors, emphasising that Facebook cared about making money as well as pursuing his mission to make the world a "more open and connected place".

He also repeated his belief that the company would work out numerous ways to profit from the growing number of its 955 million worldwide users who visit it through mobile applications instead of web browsers on desktop computers.

Mr Zuckerberg said the performance of Facebook's stock "has obviously been disappointing", but said it was a great time to "double down" on the company's future."I think it is really easy for folks to underestimate how really fundamentally good mobile is for us," he told his interviewer, former blogger-turned venture capitalist Michal Arrington, at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference.

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