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Mutual fund firm joins the social networking party, backs Facebook, Zynga and Angie's List
As if Facebook needed new funding.
Publicly-owned mutual fund investment firm T. Rowe Price has invested $190.5 million in the social networking company, paying $25 a share, according to newly released financial filings.
The documents also confirm part of the rumors from February that Zynga was raising a massive round led by mutual fund giants T. Rowe Price and FIdelity Investments. While no such round has yet closed, T. Rowe has indeed injected a $71.8 million investment in the social gaming giant.
Even crowdsourced reviews site Angie’s List got some love from T. Rowe in the form of $35.4 million.
T. Rowe isn’t exactly new to investing in growth-stage Web companies. The firm contributed to Twitter’s $100 million round back in September 2009, beating famed tech VC firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers to the punch by over a year. Still, it’s not common to see a mutual fund buying stock in private social networking services.
"The more ground you cover, the more likely you are to find the best opportunities," explained Ken Allen, who manages the T. Rowe Price Science & Technology Fund.
The new investment in Facebook isn’t just noteworthy for the firm doing the investing, but also because the Palo Alto, Calif. private company doesn’t necessarily need the money.
Barely three months ago, Facebook confirmed having raised $1.5 billion from Digital Sky Technologies (DST) and Goldman Sachs Group in a round that valued the seven-year-old startup at $50 billion. The T. Rowe Price investment presumably closed at a similar valuation, though that hasn’t yet been confirmed.
As small as the new investment stacks up against Facebook’s recent fundraising efforts, the cash is even less substantial for T. Rowe Price, which reported $482 billion in assets under management at the end of 2010.
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Zynga is the largest social gaming company with 8.5 million daily users and 45 million monthly users. Zynga’s games are available on Facebook, MySpace, Bebo, Hi5, Friendster, Yahoo! and the iPhone, and include Texas Hold’Em Poker, Mafia Wars, YoVille, Vampires, Street Racing, Scramble and Word Twist. The company is funded by Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, IVP, Union Square Ventures, Foundry Group, Avalon Ventures, Pilot Group, Reid Hoffman and Peter Thiel. Zynga is headquartered at the Chip Factory in San Francisco. For more information, please visit www.zynga.com.
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What is Twitter?
Twitter is an online information network that allows anyone with an account to post 140 character messages, called tweets. It is free to sign up. Users then follow other accounts which they are interested in, and view the tweets of everyone they follow in their "timeline." Most Twitter accounts are public, where one does not need to approve a request to follow, or need to follow back. This makes Twitter a powerful "one to many" broadcast platform where individuals, companies or organizations can reach millions of followers with a single message. Twitter is accessible from Twitter.com, our mobile website, SMS, our mobile apps for iPhone, Android, Blackberry, our iPad application, or 3rd party clients built by outside developers using our API. Twitter accounts can also be private, where the owner must approve follower requests.
Where did the idea for Twitter come from?
Twitter started as an internal project within the podcasting company Odeo. Jack Dorsey, and engineer, had long been interested in status updates. Jack developed the idea, along with Biz Stone, and the first prototype was built in two weeks in March 2006 and launched publicly in August of 2006. The service grew popular very quickly and it soon made sense for Twitter to move outside of Odea. In May 2007, Twitter Inc was founded.
How is Twitter built?
Our engineering team works with a web application framework called Ruby on Rails. We all work on Apple computers except for testing purposes.
We built Twitter using Ruby on Rails because it allows us to work quickly and easily--our team likes to deploy features and changes multiple times per day. Rails provides skeleton code frameworks so we don't have to re-invent the wheel every time we want to add something simple like a sign in form or a picture upload feature.
How do you make money from Twitter?
There are a few ways that Twitter makes money. We have licensing deals in place with Google, Yahoo!, and Microsoft's Bing to give them access to the "firehose" - a stream of tweets so that they can more easily incorporate those tweets into their search results.
In Summer 2010, we launched our Promoted Tweets product. Promoted Tweets are a special kind of tweet which appear at the top of search results within Twitter.com, if a company has bid on that keyword. Unlike search results in search engines, Promoted Tweets are normal tweets from a business, so they are as interactive as any other tweet - you can @reply, favorite or retweet a Promoted Tweet.
At the same time, we launched Promoted Trends, where companies can place a trend (clearly marked Promoted) within Twitter's Trending Topics. These are especially effective for upcoming launches, like a movie or album release.
Lastly, we started a Twitter account called @earlybird where we partner with other companies to provide users with a special, short-term deal. For example, we partnered with Virgin America for a special day of fares on Virginamerica.com that were only accessible through the link in the @earlybird tweet.
What's next for Twitter?
We continue to focus on building a product that provides value for users.
We're building Twitter, Inc into a successful, revenue-generating company that attracts world-class talent with an inspiring culture and attitude towards doing business.