Twitter CEO on growth, strategy: ‘We need to make Twitter a better Twitter’

Above: Twitter CEO Dick Costolo

Image Credit: VentureBeat
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Twitter CEO Dick Costolo is betting big (and talking big) on rich media, mobile ads, and user growth — hoping this will make Twitter the world’s first “global town square.”

Costolo and Twitter’s CFO, Mike Gupta, spoke with steadfast conviction during Twitters’ first ever public earnings call since the company IPO’d less than a year ago. Its stock price ended trading at $65.97 Wednesday.

The numbers — growth in advertising and users — were decent: $243 million total revenue for the last quarter of 2013, timeline advertising up 121 percent to $220 million over the previous year, and international revenue doubling from 2012 to 2013 to $23 million. Total revenue for the year clocked in at $665 million. Costolo and Gupta predicted total revenue for the 10-year-old company to top $1.2 billion by the end of 2014.

“We are doubling down in 2014 in order to accelerate our user base,” Costolo said.

Indeed, 75 percent of revenue derived from mobile devices. The company ended 2013 with cash reserves of $2.2 billion.

Costolo said that Nathan Hubbard, the former CEO of Ticketmaster who was hired last year, was going to help focus Twitter’s efforts on the “now, in the moment commerce.”

In other words, apparently, increasing the transparency of immediacy, whatever that means.

Growth in new users was tepid, climbing to just 241 million versus 232 million at the end of 2013.

Gupta had a message for the company’s naysayers, who expected revenue figures to be slightly higher: “We will reach many more people in 2014,” than the previous year, he said.

He said simplicity of use will help close the gap.

The upcoming year will see Twitter launching a slew of new products and aggressively targeting the capabilities of users and advertisers for mobile applications, accelerating research and development efforts with the stated goal of “reaching every person on the planet,” Costolo said.

For the first time, more users signed up for the service on mobile devices than on laptops and home computers, opening the door to potential revenue streams with advertisers. Think Facebook.

Twitter IPO’d last November, raising $1.8 billion.

The toughest questions for Costolo during the earnings call were from Macquarie Securities senior analyst Ben Schachter. He told VentureBeat before the call that he had questions about Twitter’s ability to ultimately compete with Facebook, about what the company’s long-term strategy might be for sustaining growth, and about how it planned to make money through mobile devices.

“They’re still working to clarify their strategy,” Schachter said today from New York.

Costolo somewhat agreed: “We need to make Twitter a better Twitter,” he said, reading from a prepared statement.

And more decent news -certain to help boost the government’s employment numbers: Twitter is hiring!

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