Twitter gets $300M from Saudi Prince Alwaleed

Bambi Francisco Roizen · December 19, 2011 · Short URL:

As Arabic is fastest-growing language on Twitter, Arabian Warren Buffet lands an investment

Clearly, the Arab world sees the value in Twitter.

Billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal, the nephew of King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia, announced Monday an investment of $300 million into Twitter, expanding the billionaire's  growing media footprint. 

Prince Alwaleed, through his company Kingdom Holdings, has a large presence in media properties, particularly in the Arab world. Kingdom Holdings owns a 29.9% stake in Saudi Research and Marketing Group (SRMG), which owns publications, such as Asharq Al Awsat, Al Eqtisadiah, Arab News and Hia Magazine. More notably, King Holdings also owns 7% of News Corp. 

Alwaleed is also one of the richest men in the world with an estimated $19.6 billion fortune, ranking him No. 26 in Forbes' 2011 list of world's richest people. Time magazine also referred to him as the Arabian Warren Buffet. 

"Our investment in Twitter reaffirms our ability in identifying suitable opportunities to invest in promising, high-growth businesses with a global impact," said Prince Alwaleed, in a statement.  

Indeed, Twitter has seen fast growth in Arab countries. Arabic is the fastest-growing language on Twitter. Some two million Arabic public posts were made on Twitter in October, up from 30,000 in July 2010.  The Arabic languange is now the 8th most used language on Twitter.  

The $300 million round follows a round led by DST this past August. That round valued Twitter at a reported $8 billion, more than double the $3.7 billion valuation Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers gave Twitter for its last financing in December.  DST, or Digital Sky Technologies for long, holds stakes in several other prominent Web companies, including Facebook, Groupon, Spotify and Zynga. As a contributor to Y Combinator startups, though, it’s clear that DST is not just about the obvious heavy-hitters. hat valued the company at $8 billion.  

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Bambi Francisco Roizen

Founder and CEO of Vator, a media and research firm for entrepreneurs and investors; Managing Director of Vator Health Fund; Co-Founder of Invent Health; Author and award-winning journalist.

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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, 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, 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 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.