Facebook Valuation: Some Context Behind the Numbers

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Over the past week there have been numerous articles, blog posts, news reports and conversations about Facebook being worth $50 billion.  Some say it is too high while other say it could be a bargain.  The one thing that is common is that there is not a lot of information available but there is a lot of speculation.  However, with the little bit that is known the valuation could be put in a better context.

The Fundamentals

It is estimated that Facebook’s net income for 2010 was up to $500 million (extrapolated from reports of their first 9 months of $355 million) on $2 billion revenue.  That would make Facebook’s P/E ratio 100.  This is significantly higher than other public internet companies like Google (25) and Yahoo (22).  If it were treated like a fixed income security it would yield 1%.  3-year Treasury Bonds (my proxy for the risk free rate) are yielding 0.98% (1/7/2011) so Facebook would not provide a great return for the additional risk of an early stage company with little financial disclosure.

From a fundamental perspective it makes sense why fundamental investors would want to unfriend Facebook.  But is this really the right way to value a growing internet company that has unprecedented reach?

What Investors are Really Buying???

Growth… but what does that mean?  With the deep level of user engagement and potential profit these users represent there are other metrics that could be used to value Facebook.  Long-term value of users would give a better perspective of how much Facebook should be worth.  At between 500 – 600 million users, the latest valuation would represent $83 – $100 per user.  A key question is can the company earn at least this much for each user over their lifetime with the service.  In 2010 earnings on average was $1/user on revenue of $4/user.  It is well known that making money is not a priority for Facebook at this time so it will be interesting to see how quickly they can grow earnings per user, because the users won’t be around for 100 years to recoup the money. Smile

There is also the question of how many more users are there who could join Facebook in the future.  Current stats show that 2 billion people are on the internet so there is still a lot of upside for growing the number of users.  User count could theoretically double which is crazy to think of.  I would guess that the incremental cost of adding users would be cheaper than the first few hundred million as they have economies of scale.

Overall there is room for Facebook to grow revenue, earnings and users but at the current valuation they will have to execute really well to justify the valuation.

How Does Goldman Sachs Fit Into This???

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Goldman Sachs’ (GS) investment provides credibility to the $50 billion valuation but there are also a lot of benefits for Goldman as well.  Direct ownership of Facebook stock gives GS the upside of Facebook stock when it goes public and the ability to earn fees from others who want the stock so badly they will pay fees to invest in the Facebook special purpose investment vehicle.  Assuming Facebook matures to a similar market cap as Google, GS shares could increase 3-4x in the future.

Yet the real benefit are the intangibles.  Similar to the British Petroleum deal in the 1990s, GS proves that it can move a large block of shares for an in demand company.  It also gives it favorable access to a company that is likely to become increasingly important in the technology field.  Secondary offerings, M&A and advisory work all carry future fees.  Plus the additional access in the social media space will improve their institutional knowledge making it easier to make money from proprietary investing, research and seeking new business.

Final Thoughts

No doubt about it, Facebook’s user base and valuation are growing quickly.  Ideally if you are “investing” it is better to get more details so you can do some due diligence.  However, if you have a few million to “speculate” think about why you are buying the stock, look at the information you have in a greater context and then make your decision.  Value is different for everyone so you have to make your own call on value.  There are several more techniques, that could have been used for this analysis as well.

Talk to you soon,

Orville | Twitter: @orville_m

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Phone App Pricing Beyond $0.99

Originally posted: 4/20/2010 at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/orville/archive/2010/04/20/phone-app-pricing-beyond-0-99.aspx

 

As a buyer of phone apps this is a blog post that I may one day regret but it is worth writing.  I have often wondered why most phone applications sell for $0.99 or less including free.  There are probably several reasons for this but my feeling is that most developers just follow the common price of other apps.  Developers who create compelling apps should be able have profitable marketplace success so they can build even more successful apps.  I know that a lot of apps are free to get broad distribution and are funded by ads.  Ad-supported business model is a good one but I want to provide alternative pricing strategy for developers to consider.  In this post I will write about a different way to set a price for apps.

Let’s start with the issues with some common pricing strategies.  Some of the most common pricing strategies that I have heard of include matching the competition and “cost-plus.”  Both of these options have faults.  Matching the price of the competition does not reflect the value of your app.  If the competition has a better app no one will purchase your app at the sane price.  However, if you have a better app it will not get as much money as it could have gotten and will also leave the impression of being of similar quality to the competition.  Cost plus some “fixed return percentage” as a pricing strategy is not driven by customer value and could result in an overly expensive price.  Phone app development is primarily has fixed costs and would require a clairvoyant sense of how many apps will be sold to correctly determine the return percentage.

When setting a price for an app one should focus on the value it provides customers.  Even if the developer’s focus is not on making a lot of money it is still important to understand how customers will value their app if it is going to be successful.  There are a few steps for determining the value of the app to customers:

  1. Identify your customer.  This sounds obvious but it is important to recognize who will buy the app.  Note that there can be more than one customer group, all with their own needs.
  2. Assess the app’s value to customers.  Do some customers find more value in your app than others?  Are there a few things you can do to make your app more appealing?
  3. What takes away value from your app?  External factors will impact how valuable your app is to customers.  Availability of substitutes, learning curve, alternatives to spending more time on the phone, etc.

When these 3 steps are combined you have a better estimate of how much you should charge for your app.  As an example, we will use an imaginary game “Foo.”  Foo is enjoyed by both casual and hardcore gamers.  Hardcore gamers are willing to pay for advanced levels while casual gamers are not.  For the casual gamers they can get a trial version while the hardcore gamers will pay for a more advanced game.  Sometimes the phone app may be free but there is a cost for a service that powers it.

Even though this is a basic introduction to pricing strategy I hope this helps you determine the right price for your app.

Talk to you soon,

Orville | Twitter: @orville_m

Channel 9 Follow-Up

Originally posted: 4/15/2010 at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/orville/archive/2010/04/15/channel-9-follow-up.aspx

During my Channel 9 interview at the Visual Studio launch I promised that I would follow up on a question for using XNA with Visual Studio 2010.  If you are using Visual Studio 2010 Professional (or higher) and have installed the Windows Phone Developer Tools CTP you will get XNA Game Studio 4.0 in Visual Studio.

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Talk to you soon,

Orville | @orville_m

Updates from DevConnections

Originally posted: 4/12/2010 at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/orville/archive/2010/04/12/updates-from-devconnections.aspx

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Today was a fun day in Las Vegas.  It started off with the Keynote this morning where Microsoft’s Server & Tools Business President Bob Muglia announced the release of Visual Studio 2010.  Sam Gazitt, Doug Seven and I gave demonstrations of the product.  They all did a great job.  After that there was booth duty where I had a great opportunity to talk with customers and learn more about how they use Visual Studio.

In between booth duty I also spent some time on Channel 9 with Jonathan Carter.  I’m currently waiting to receive the list of questions that I said I would follow up on.  My guess is that I will receive them tomorrow and should have an answer by Wednesday.  Feel free to come back and check.

Today Charlie Kindel posted a blog post on compatibility issues with Windows Phone Developer Tools CTP and Visual Studio RTM.  This issue will be addressed in the coming weeks but you can find more information at the blog post.

Talk to you soon,

Orville | @orville_m

Visual Studio 2010 Launch at DevConnections

Originally posted: 4/10/2010 at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/orville/archive/2010/04/10/visual-studio-2010-launch-at-devconnections.aspx

 

On Monday April 12th we are going to be launching Visual Studio 2010.  This is an exciting day as there are a lot of new features in this release that will help developers simply create applications for the web, cloud, phone, Windows, database and other platforms.

There will be 5 keynotes throughout the world starting in Beijing and ending in Las Vegas with Microsoft president Bob Muglia.  I will be one of the demonstrators during the keynote.  You will have to tune in to see what will be shown.  It will be broadcast live starting at 8:30am online at http://www.microsoft.com/visualstudio/en-us/watch-it-live.

After the Las Vegas keynote Channel 9 will be broadcasting interviews live.  You can submit your questions via twitter @ch9live.  The schedule is posted to the Channel 9 website.  I will be there sessions on days 1 and 2.

Talk to you soon,

Orville | @orville_m

Updates from Mix

Originally posted: 3/16/2010 at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/orville/archive/2010/03/16/updates-from-mix.aspx

In yesterday’s blog post I talked about my fun with using the Windows Phone Development Tools.  Working at the Windows Phone booth at Mix yesterday I met a lot of people who are actively using Visual Studio and have or were soon going to download the CTP bits.  It was also enjoyable to demonstrate how to use Visual Studio.  A lot of people were familiar with the product so it was only the phone functionality that was new.

The keynote had a lot of amazing demos and being in the crowd you could feel the excitement and the “wow” factor.  Especially for the T-shirt cannon controlled by a Windows Phone.  One demo that I was asked about was Jon Harris’ Expression Blend 4 for Windows Phone.  He developed a Windows Phone application all in Blend.  For anyone who has not used Expression Studio, it is a set of designer tools that when combined with Visual Studio is outstanding for designing and developing applications.

Expression Blend 4 for Windows Phone is a part of the Windows Phone Developer Tools CTP and although not included in the single install today, it will be in the future (the 5th discovery of my Windows Phone Developer Tools CTP discoveries). I talked with Jon about Expression Blend and here is what I got.

Expression Blend 4 for Windows Phone provides exactly the same streamlined development workflow for Windows Phone that was previously only available for Silverlight and .Net applications; including features such as Behaviors, sample data, and the visual state manager. As part of this release two new project templates are included, one for standard Window Phone applications and one for applications that follow an MVVM pattern. To ensure consistency across development tools Blend leverages the Windows Phone Emulator installed as part of Windows Phone Developer Tools.

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Get the tools at:

Time to get ready for Day 2 of Mix, keynote and sessions.

Talk to you soon,

Orville | @orville_m

Discovering Windows Phone Developer Tools

Originally posted: 3/15/2010 at http://blogs.msdn.com/b/orville/archive/2010/03/15/discovering-windows-phone-developer-tools.aspx

Windows Phone 7 Series phones are designed for end users while providing an exciting development experience for developers. Today at Mix 2010 Microsoft announced the release of the Windows Phone Developer Tools CTP. For the past few months I have had the joy of using the tools and it has been difficult to contain my excitement. Now that it has been publicly announced and is available for download, here is my list of “discoveries.”

Discovery #1: Silverlight Developer == Windows Phone 7 Series Developer

Silverlight developers can use their existing skills to develop for Windows Phone 7 Series starting today. Silverlight is used for developing rich internet applications and is easy to learn if you are familiar with .NET development. When I first started developing for the phone I didn’t know Silverlight programming but the familiar controls, C# and XAML familiarity (must be from looking at so much ASP.NET code) made it really easy to pick up. Add Intellisense in Visual Studio on top of that and I was quickly discovering functionality and being productive. Silverlight is a proven technology that is also easy to use.

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Discovery #2: One Download

Everything you need to bring your ideas to life on the phone is available in the Windows Phone Developer Tools CTP. For Silverlight and .NET developers all of these tools will be familiar to you and for people new to the platform they are pretty intuitive. Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone gives you the power of Visual Studio for designing, developing and debugging your phone applications. For developers already using the Visual Studio 2010 release candidate for development, the Windows Phone Add-in for Visual Studio will plug into your existing VS installation. To test your application without needing the physical device, the Windows Phone Emulator gives you a functioning phone environment. Silverlight and XNA Game Studio are both included as well if you do not have them installed already.

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Discovery #3: Write Once, Optimize Everywhere

Existing Silverlight applications can be moved to different platforms with some optimizations giving you more places to run your code. This lets you create high-quality experiences for all major browsers on Windows, Mac and Linux operating systems and now the phone is included as well.

Discovery #4: Easily Beautiful Interfaces

Visual Studio 2010 Express for Windows Phone includes the design tools needed to make visually appealing interfaces. First, there are the templates that use the Windows Phone design system by default. As you drag & drop controls they automatically adopt the same design as your interface. If you have your own preferred style you can also use that instead. With side-by-side layout and XAML views you can edit the interface in your preferred way. The layout view provides a precise way to align controls for meticulous user interfaces.

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Now that you have seen some Windows Phone Developer Tools CTP “discoveries” you should download the tools and start exploring. As you find features that you like feel free to leave me a comment.

For additional information on Windows Phone Developer Tools CTP you can also go to:

· MIX Virtual Press Room

· Channel 9 Live Streaming

· Scott Guthrie Blog

· Soma Blog

· Silverlight Team Blog

Talk to you soon,

Orville | @orville_m