Facebook Was Never Worth $15 Billion

Back in December, Valleywag and Silicon Valley Insider tried to estimate the current valuation of Facebook by calculating the price at which employee shares are transacting on closed markets.  Valleywag wondered if Facebook was only worth $1.3B while Insider said it might be worth around $2B, thereby facing the prospect of a down round in their next financing round. As we all remember, Microsoft had invested a $240M in Facebook for a 1.6% stake in the company in October 2007, valuing the company at $15B.

I don’t buy it.  Not Valleywag or Insider’s calculations of Facebook’s current valuation. I don’t buy the fact that Microsoft thought Facebook was once worth $15B (even though their press release says so).

Let’s review what I think happened. In October 2007, Microsoft announced that they had taken a 1.6% stake in the company. The Wall Street Journal wrote at the time: “Facebook sells ads on its own and also struck a deal last year that allows Microsoft to broker display ads on Facebook’s U.S. site until 2011. (…) As part of yesterday’s agreement, which lasts through 2011, Microsoft will sell advertisements on international versions of the Facebook service”. The press release adds “Microsoft will be the exclusive third-party advertising platform partner for Facebook” Interesting.  An exclusive search/contextual/banner ad deal is part of the agreement.

Go back one more year, in 2006.  Fox Interactive Media announced in August 2006 that they had “entered into a nearly $1 billion, 3+ year deal with Google to exclusively power search across most Fox online sites, including Myspace.” That deal had minimum revenue guarantees for Fox. If I remember correctly, Microsoft had bid for that business and lost it.

Go back further, in December 2005. Google and AOL announced the expansion of their strategic partnership through a $1B investment from Google in AOL (for a 5% stake).  Microsoft had previously lost that one as well.

With a fledgling search advertising business and a recently acquired ad network/ad technology (through the purchase of aQuantive in May 2007), Microsoft needed strategically to have at least one sexy partner. When Facebook exploded into the scene, they had found the deal they needed to absolutely make. I remain convinced today that the partnership business case was mostly built on the ad deal, which allowed Microsoft to claim Facebook as a partner, offer more inventory in their ad network and keep Google at bay. The small investment made sure the Facebook’s exec team remained aligned with that goal. Facebook must have made the request to include the valuation in the press release and Microsoft obliged. In a sense, this really worked for Facebook given that the Microsoft deal might have helped them strike two subsequent consecutive funding deals (for a total of $100M) with Li Ka-shing in November 2007 and March 2008.

In conclusion, Facebook raised (hopefully) enough money ($340M!) for a good runway and Microsoft got the strategic partner they needed while shutting off Google. But I don’t think Microsoft ever really thought Facebook was worth $15B.

MySpace Wants to Partner with Other Media Firms to Launch ‘YouTube Killer’

From Variety.com via NewTeeVee.com

News Corp. is forging ahead on talks with a number of congloms to create a video platform that could compete with YouTube. “We’re in very active negotiations with all of the media companies to create the most robust video offering from professional content on the Web,” Fox Interactive Media topper Peter Levinsohn told investors at the Bear Stearns confab in Palm Beach, Fla. “Those conversations are ongoing, but they’re going very well,” he added. (…)

And then, perhaps hinting at where such a convocation would happen, he added, “No doubt MySpace will be a huge beneficiary of that.” News Corp. would reportedly like to see much of the content from other congloms live on its social-networking subsid. But comments glossed over a big sticking point: Other congloms have been resistant to making video available to MySpace, worrying that it would drive traffic and revenue to a competitor. Congloms are by no means unanimous on the subject; NBC has reportedly been more willing, while CBS has been more reluctant.(…)

Viacom recently decided to go its own way on video-sharing after talks with Google broke down, signing a content deal with a YouTube competitor, the Europe-based startup Joost. MySpace has been a major platform for News Corp.’s video, offering a hefty number of clips and sneak peeks of Fox content. Levinsohn did say that a major obstacle to pacting with other congloms is ensuring that those in charge of digital operations have the ear of the conglom chiefs. Digital divisions have gained clout in recent months but still may not have as much sway in the exec suite as they may need.

What it means: reading between the lines, this article highlights a couple of interesting points. First, the struggle of traditional media firms to redefine their competitive space with the arrival of Google: “Other congloms have been resistant to making video available to MySpace, worrying that it would drive traffic and revenue to a competitor”. Who’s the biggest long term competitive threat to CBS? Is it News Corp or is it Google-Yahoo-Microsoft (GYM)? And why not partner with both groups? I personally think you want to build up your own assets while partnering within your industry but also with GYM. We’ve seen the same kind of ambiguity in the newspaper world with Tom Mohr’s “Winning Online” manifesto “proposing that the US newspaper industry should merge into a single industry-wide network, at least for its digital assets. The article also discuss the kind of internal politics interactive teams are facing within traditional media companies: “Levinsohn did say that a major obstacle to pacting with other congloms is ensuring that those in charge of digital operations have the ear of the conglom chiefs.”. This internal in-fighting is, in my opinion, completely useless. The competitors are outside the walls of the company, not inside. Trust your interactive teams, they understand this new world order.

Google Earth & Microsoft Virtual Earth: Some Advertising Examples

Read in this month’s Business 2.0:

“This spring Saturn is looking to roll out a nationwide version of an online ad for its new Aura sedan built on Google Earth technology. Web users don’t have to download the mapping software; they just watch as the screen zooms all the way down from space into the nearest Saturn dealership – located by their IP address – where a salesman offers them a test-drive. A beta version of the ad, targeted at just six U.S. cities, received millions of click-throughs, according to Gokul Rajaram, product management director for Google AdSense. (You can view this 3-d ad here.)”

“It also resulted in more than 1,000 requests for a test-drive – which prompted Saturn’s ad agency, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, to start inventing campaigns for its other clients using Google Earth. “Every retail chain will eventually do this,” says Jeff Goodby, co-founder of the San Francisco-based agency.”

“Microsoft has already rolled out ads inside Virtual Earth 3D for major sponsors like Fox and Nissan. Users will soon be able to zoom through virtual versions of real cities with billboards advertising local hotels, restaurants, or day trips.”

What it means: this is really cool but it’s still a very static execution, i.e. more like a TV ad online. The real difference is the IP targetting. I’m sure they’ve done the ads that way to avoid the download problem (you need to install a software in order to use both MSN & Google’s services). But in this case, you can’t really use the service at its fullest (driving directions, etc.). The real 3D mapping killer-app (for advertising) will happen when you don’t have to download anything to navigate in these virtual worlds.

Google Earth & Microsoft Virtual Earth: Some Advertising Examples

Read in this month’s Business 2.0:

“This spring Saturn is looking to roll out a nationwide version of an online ad for its new Aura sedan built on Google Earth technology. Web users don’t have to download the mapping software; they just watch as the screen zooms all the way down from space into the nearest Saturn dealership – located by their IP address – where a salesman offers them a test-drive. A beta version of the ad, targeted at just six U.S. cities, received millions of click-throughs, according to Gokul Rajaram, product management director for Google AdSense. (You can view this 3-d ad here.)”

“It also resulted in more than 1,000 requests for a test-drive – which prompted Saturn’s ad agency, Goodby Silverstein & Partners, to start inventing campaigns for its other clients using Google Earth. “Every retail chain will eventually do this,” says Jeff Goodby, co-founder of the San Francisco-based agency.”

“Microsoft has already rolled out ads inside Virtual Earth 3D for major sponsors like Fox and Nissan. Users will soon be able to zoom through virtual versions of real cities with billboards advertising local hotels, restaurants, or day trips.”

What it means: this is really cool but it’s still a very static execution, i.e. more like a TV ad online. The real difference is the IP targetting. I’m sure they’ve done the ads that way to avoid the download problem (you need to install a software in order to use both MSN & Google’s services). But in this case, you can’t really use the service at its fullest (driving directions, etc.). The real 3D mapping killer-app (for advertising) will happen when you don’t have to download anything to navigate in these virtual worlds.

Meta-Praized: ComScore & Privacy, TV Networks Discuss YouTube Rival, Four Google Improvements, LiveDeal.com, Yahoo & FaceBook, Skype Reorg, BidNearby

Meta-Praized is a collection of links & stories we’ve “dugg” on Digg.com in the last 7 days. Feel free to add us as a friend: PraizedDotCom .

Meta-Praized: ComScore & Privacy, TV Networks Discuss YouTube Rival, Four Google Improvements, LiveDeal.com, Yahoo & FaceBook, Skype Reorg, BidNearby

Meta-Praized is a collection of links & stories we’ve “dugg” on Digg.com in the last 7 days. Feel free to add us as a friend: PraizedDotCom .