Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg said on Tuesday the social network giant was focused on mobile devices and should be seen as a smart bet despite a “disappointing” stock market debut.
“It is really clear from the stats and my own personal intuition that a lot of energy in the ecosystem is going to mobile, not desktop [computers],” Zuckerberg said during an on-stage interview at a TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco.
“That is the future,” he said. “We are going to be doing killer stuff there.”
Zuckerberg was adamant that the company was being underestimated and was on track to make “more money on mobile than we make on desktop.”
His appearance at the conference marked his first public interview since the massive initial public offering (IPO) on May 18 that was hotly anticipated — but ended up being a flop. Facebook shares have lost about half their value since the IPO at US$38 a share.
“The performance of the stock has obviously been disappointing,” Zuckerberg said.
Facebook has made a priority of following its more than 900 million members onto smartphones and tablets, tailoring services and ads for mobile devices.
The shares gained 3.3 percent on Wall Street on Tuesday to close at US$19.43. In after-hours trading following Zuckerberg’s remarks, the stock gained 3.45 percent to US$20.10.
Zuckerberg rejected criticism that the company is ill-prepared for a shift to mobile devices, where Facebook has only begun to get ad revenues.
“Now, we are a mobile company,” he said.
The company would pursue its “mission” of making the world more social and connected, cranking profit for shareholders, he added.
“Building a mission and building a business go hand in hand,” Zuckerberg said. “From the beginning, we’ve had this understanding we’ve had to do both.”
Zuckerberg said that the stock price plummet has dimmed the morale of workers compensated with shares, but that Facebook staff are accustomed to criticism and “have a pretty good compass” pointing to better days.
Stock compensation for Facebook employees is made based on cash value of shares, meaning that workers are awarded more shares at lower prices, the chief executive said.
“I actually think it is a great time for people to join and a great time for people to stay and double-down,” Zuckerberg said of the Facebook team. “We are seeing that.”
Zuckerberg rejected suggestions that Facebook would make its own smartphone, adamant that the company had no intention of stepping into the fiercely competitive handset hardware arena.
“Apple, Google, everyone builds phones — we are going in the opposite direction,” Zuckerberg said. “We want to build a system deeply integrated in every device people want to use.”
He also said Facebook did not plan to take on Google in the online search market, but that the social network already handles 1 billion queries daily from people looking up friends, apps, brand pages and more.
“Facebook is uniquely positioned to answer a lot of questions people have,” he said, giving examples such as finding restaurants friends have enjoyed or checking to see who has connections at particular companies for jobs.
“At some point we will do it,” he continued. “We have a team working on search.”