Sooner or later Twitter will get serious about an IPO and or someone will try and buy them. My guess is that various firms have already made offers but that they are shrewdly holding out. After all, YouTube sold early to Google for what seemed like a lot at that time but now seems a bargain. Let’s assume that at some point suitors are able to offer enough money to entice the founders and investors to sell. Who is likely to get the prize? Well here are my candidates:
- Facebook – could decide that ‘Places’ is OK but not great and that a second property makes sense. If they did they may be able to offer an interesting alternative for investors, whereby they get to take part in what is likely to be biggest IPO in a decade or more when they themselves go public.
- Google – Google has a search engine, a content library, email, IP comms and great mapping technology. But Bing is catching them up,their email isn’t the best, there’s a lot of competition in their IP comms areas AND it doesn’t have a social platform that rocks people’s world. Twitter would fit into the Google empire much like YouTube has and they have the cash to make an outrageous bid.
- Microsoft – they have the cash and REALLY want to be a player in the Internet world. They’ve stumbled but Bing is proof that they are turning things around. They may well be smart enough to leave Twitter alone and have enough server farms (as do Google) to make sure Twitter outages are a thing of the past.
- Apple – they are a left field option. We’ve already seen that Apple wants to play in the social network space with Ping. I don’t think they get it though and would likely screw up. That said, they effectively invented the small app world and could make Twitter the center of a massive app world.
- Skype -If Skype does an IPO they could have the platform to do a deal. Imagine a Skype version of Twitter with thousands of short videos on your desktop, iPhone etc each day? I can’t see Twitter going this route but it could happen.
- Amazon or eBay – these are also outsiders but both could use this technology very effectively within their businesses and could therefore justify a big price tag. That said eBay bought Skype and later sold it at a loss, so they will likely pass on this one.
- IBM, Oracle, HP etc – any one of the big IT vendors could make a play as they have the cash. They’re not likely to though. Twitter is not a good fit culturally and they would probably rather spend their money on more obvious Internet targets such as Salesforce.com.
What’s clear is that WHEN Twitter looks to realize the value they’ve created, there are plenty of deep pocketed options for them. Don’t you wish you’d got founder stock? I certainly do.