“I would rather be in a cycle where people underestimate us because I’d rather be underestimated,” Zuckerberg said Tuesday. “I think it gives us the latitude to go out and make some big bets.”
The social networking leader’s stock has lost nearly half its value since the IPO. More than $50 billion has been lopped off Facebook’s market value as the company’s shares have fallen from $38 to Tuesday’s closing price of $19.43.
No one has lost as much as Zuckerberg, who has seen the value of his Facebook holdings fall about more than $9 billion. That while hearing more skeptics second-guess his ability to lead the company that he founded eight years ago in his Harvard University dorm room.
Wearing a gray T-shirt, jeans and sneakers, Zuckerberg looked at ease through his half-hour appearance. He smiled frequently and even chuckled a few times before a 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 Zuckerberg clearly was aiming many of his remarks at investors. He emphasized 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 figure out numerous ways to profit from the growing number of its 955 million worldwide users who visit is online hangout through mobile applications instead of Web browsers on desktop computers.
“I think it is really easy to for folks to underestimate how really fundamentally good mobile is for us,” Zuckerberg told his interviewer, former blogger turned venture capitalist Michal Arrington, at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference.
Zuckerberg shouldered some of the blame for the misperceptions about Facebook’s mobile prospects, saying he made a mistake by initially relying on a computer coding called HTML 5 so the company’s applications could run on a multitude of different mobile operating systems without making a lot of changes. That resulted in sub-par experiences for many users, Zuckerberg acknowledged, prompting Facebook to use more customization tools to account for the differences in the software that run different devices such as the iPhone and Android phones.
The ubiquity of smartphones has created problems for Facebook and other advertising-dependent Internet companies because the smaller screens on those devices have less space to show commercial messages around the main content.
One way Facebook will address that challenge is by inserting more ads into the mobile news feeds that highlight status updates and photos shared by users’ friends and families, according to Zuckerberg. He once again tried to shoot down recurring speculation that Facebook is developing its own smartphone like Apple and Google Inc.
“It is so clearly the wrong strategy for us,” Zuckerberg said. “It doesn’t move the needle for us.”