Mark Zuckerberg poked his head out of his hoodie in his first public appearance since his company’s botched initial public stock offering and said the words investors wanted to hear.
“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.”
He said Facebook has overcome tough challenges before, and that it would overcome this one.
Zuckerberg, in a gray T-shirt, jeans and sneakers, fielded questions from technology investor and blogger Michael Arrington in a “fireside chat” for about 25 minutes before a tech-friendly crowd that cares a lot more about the products Zuckerberg builds than the profit he makes. But Arrington did not let Zuckerberg off the hook, peppering him with questions about the stock plunge after the much maligned IPO in May.
Investors were listening closely to hear Zuckerberg say that he’s focused on Facebook’s business and his company’s stock price. The stock rose 66 cents, or nearly 3%, in after-hours trading. That was after Facebook gained 62 cents, or 3%, in the regular session to close at $19.43.
Analysts said it would be a sign of maturity as a chief executive if Zuckerberg addressed rising concerns about Facebook’s future including heavy insider selling and slowing revenue growth.
Last week Facebook said 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.
Facebook has lost about half its value since the IPO in May. Yet Zuckerberg, apart from speaking to analysts during Facebook’s first earnings call, has largely avoided the spotlight even as frustration among investors grew and some called for his resignation.
But Zuckerberg on Tuesday spoke enthusiastically about Facebook’s ability to please its nearly 1 billion users and marketers. He made it clear that mobile was the path to making money in the future at Facebook. He said that people underestimate “how really fundamentally good mobile is for us.” And he said that Facebook has early indications that mobile ads will be more successful than desktop ads. He also pointed to other possible areas of growth such as search.
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.
Follow Jessica Guynn on Twitter @jguynn