Mark Zuckerberg Soothes Investors in His First Public Appearance Since May IPO

Facebook Inc CEO soothed investors in his first major public appearance since the No. 1 social network’s controversial May IPO, breathing life into its struggling shares after hinting at new growth areas from mobile to search.

Zuckerberg spoke with TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington in front of a packed audience at the annual Disrupt conference, held in San Francisco. Photo: Kevin Krejci/Flickr

For the first time since his company’s disastrous initial public offering on May 18, Zuckerberg spoke publicly about the social network’s rocky path to the market, saying that the stock’s performance has been “obviously disappointing.”

According to Reuters, the 28-year-old co-founder looked confident in a gray T-shirt and jeans, asking Wall Street to be patient as the company developed new products, addressing issues such as employee morale, and dashing rumors Facebook may build a smartphone.

Zuckerberg, who has himself lost billions of dollars on paper since Facebook’s market debut, admitted to disappointment about his company’s crumbling share price, but argued Wall Street has yet to grasp the full potential of its fledgling mobile business.

“The performance of the stock has obviously been disappointing,” Zuckerberg said at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco on Tuesday. “We care about our shareholders.”

Facebook CEO noted that “Facebook has not been uncontroversial in the past. It’s not like this is the first up and down we’ve had.”

He implied that the company would likely be furnishing employees with additional equity to compensate for the decreased value of their shares. “I think it’s a great time for people to join and a great time for people to stay and double down,” Zuckerberg said.

Last week the company announced that Zuckerberg does not plan to sell any shares in the company for at least the next 12 months to signal he has faith in Facebook’s future.

According to Mashable, Zuckerberg quashed rumors that the company is working on a “Facebook Phone” Tuesday.

“It’s always been the wrong strategy for us,” he said. “Let’s say we build a phone, “ he said. “We’re not, but if we did, we could maybe get 10 to 20 million people to use it … It doesn’t move the needle for us.”

On the other hand, writes Business Week, he signaled there’s a big opportunity for the company in search, and he implicitly lobbed a grenade in the direction of archenemy Google.

“Search engines are really evolving toward giving you a set of answers,” Zuckerberg said. “When you think about it from that perspective, Facebook is pretty uniquely positioned to answer a lot of the questions people have”—such as which sushi restaurants friends have eaten at and liked.

He added: “At some point we will do it.”

In addition, Zuckerberg revealed that Facebook’s mobile strategy relied too much on HTML5, rather than native applications. Not only was this a big mistake with mobile, but Zuckerberg says that its biggest mistake period was the focus on HTML5.

He also said that users are more likely to use the site every day on their phones than on their PCs, and that ads can be directly integrated into the service, rather than lurking on the side of the page, as they do on desktop computers.

“We think we are going to make a lot more money than we do on the desktop,” Zuckerberg said.

Zuckerberg said Facebook is accustomed to ups and downs in public sentiment. He added that many people underestimate Facebook.

“I would rather be underestimated,” he said.

Shares in the company ended Tuesday at $19.43, well off their $38 debut price. The stock crept above $20 in extended trade on Tuesday.

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