Did Facebook Overpay for Instagram?
Now that the dust has settled and bloggers have stopped obsessing over the spontaneous purchase of Instagram, one question still remains: was it worth the $1 billion price tag?
Based on the recent user growth -- Instagram supposedly adds five million users a week -- it might seem that Facebook has acquired a growing beast. But without the ability to monetize those users, it doesn't matter how many people use Instagram.
Or does it?
"I don't think they overpaid for it if it truly could have been disruptive and potentially a threat down the road," Brett Golden, the president and co-founder of The Chart Lab and Chart Lab Pro, told Benzinga. "They were growing so rapidly, and that's one area where Facebook is somewhat lacking."
Still, Golden -- who built his pro site (a self-directed investment platform) to help investors make more informed investment decisions -- said that he can't truly put a metric on whether or not Instagram was worth a billion dollars. "Truthfully, I don't understand how you can monetize that," he said. "I don't know how you monetize that many users based on that."
Facebook's Ad Revenue Model
Even if you could monetize it, Facebook (NASDAQ: FB) would still have some hurdles to overcome. "I don't think Facebook's ad revenue model is very good right now," said Golden. "I've used it in the past and, truthfully, there's a reason why Google's (NASDAQ: GOOG) revenue per user is $50 and Facebook's is, I don't know, $1.50."
The reason, Golden said, is because you go to Google for specific products. "You're there to potentially be a buyer. That's not why you're going to Facebook. You're going there to be a voyeur because you're bored at lunch and look at your friends' pictures. And that's why the click-through rates are so low -- they're incredibly low. And that's why Google, also, their keywords are about 10 times higher. And that's because it [provides] much more value."
In spite of this, Google is threatened by Facebook, Golden said.
"Sergey said that Google would have never been able to start and exist if Facebook came first," Golden recalled. "Is [Facebook] an original idea? Is it proprietary? No. Did [Mark Zuckerberg] execute better than the Winklevoss twins could have? Yes. I think that he did such a phenomenal job executing on all cylinders. It would probably be hard for anyone else to execute like that. But we'll see. We'll see if the $100 billion valuation pays off. They have 900 million users -- can they monetize them? I don't know."
Can Facebook Make a Mint?
Before Instagram, there was another company that sold for much more than its true value: Mint.com.
"[The acquisition of Instagram] is like Mint.com, the account aggregating site," said Golden. "They were bought out for [roughly] $170 million. They were doing $7 million a year in revenue, and they were bought out by Intuit (NASDAQ: INTU). Why were they bought out? They were doing no business and they were bought out for 20 times revenue. They were bought out because they were killing Intuit's shrink-wrap product, Quicken, in the stores. So they thought, 'Okay, we're gonna buy this, and we're gonna use it as a lead-generation tool.'"
Ultimately, Golden believes that if someone wants to buy your company, the buyer is interested because it wants your clients, to use your company as a lead-generation tool, or because the product you're producing has disruptive properties that could crush another firm's core business.
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