Will going public corporatise the culture of a company that owes its growth to openness?
Twitter, the first big Silicon Valley brand to choose not to open its IPO on Nasdaq, is off to a flying start on the New York Stock Exchange. While last year’s Facebook IPO had needed emergency cash transfusions from merchant bankers to keep its shares afloat, TWTR rallied by almost 75 per cent in 24 hours. It’s a loss-making company, so maybe investors are gambling on its unknown future potentials, not its immediate prospects.
In a few years, Twitter has grown from a narrowcasting company offering a service rather like group SMS to a huge data pipe that looks like it wants to be the transmission system for the world’s media, promotional content and chitchat. That spells power and its data content, which now earns a modest revenue, could become a money-spinner as firms start plugging in to track their brands through mentions on timelines and use it to interact with customers directly. The company employed its first big data journalist last year. As the world’s fattest metadata pipe, it knows that revenues, insight and influence can be mined like gold from big data.
Investor confidence in Twitter owes something to its exponential growth, which was helped by a reasonably open culture of development that borrowed when it could. The @ and #hashtags were 25-year-old innovations from Internet Relay Chat. Will going public corporatise the culture of the company, which is so loose-hung that top executives can ask for huge pay cuts for no observable reason? To keep flying at speed, TWTR must resist the distrust of openness that shareholders bring on board.