Twitter’s IPO, slowly but surely, is coming.
It’s still not clear when — a recent report by Bloomberg says it could come as soon as the end of the year — but the time for Twitter to make its public market debut is imminent.
How do we know? Just look at these 10 recent moves, which basically double as a preparing-to-go-public cheat sheet.
1. Hiring Nathan Hubbard
Twitter last week appointed its first “head of commerce,” former Ticketmaster executive Nathan Hubbard. His role will be working with merchants to help them better sell products through Twitter.
2. Hiring Vijaya Gadde
Gadde joined Twitter as legal director last year, but was thrust into a greater role when general counsel Alexander Macgillivray left the company at the end of August. Gadde is an alumnus of Wilson Sonsini Goodrich & Rosati and has plenty of experience to handle the upcoming IPO even without Macgillivray.
3. Emphasizing conversations
Following a thousand — or even a few hundred — people on Twitter can quickly devolve into a mess of random conversations. So Twitter decided to lump conversations together, sometimes breaking the chronological order that many old power users hold dear. But slowing the pace of Twitter even a little bit can do a whole lot more for its casual users and, more importantly, make it more attractive for newer ones, which will theoretically propel growth ahead of and after its IPO.
4. Buying Bluefin Labs
Twitter signed a roughly $90 million check, according to AllThingsD, for Bluefin labs, a social analytics company. What it does is something Twitter has long sought after: marries the ability to track how Twitter and television are interacting in a more real-time way during events, like the Super Bowl. The closer the interaction, the more Twitter is able to show its value to advertisers.
5. Hiring Mike Gupta
Amid a small executive shuffle late last year, Gupta took over the CFO role while Ali Rowghani took on the job of chief operating officer. Gupta, an alumnus of Yahoo, joined Twitter last year after helping take Zynga public and hammering out Yahoo’s investment in Alibaba — which has proved extremely successful — according to a profile of him by Bloomberg.
6. Scoping out a financial reporting position
Every company going public has to have a specialist who will create the financial reports that analysts, potential investors and regulators will pore over with a fine-tooth comb. And in July this year, USA Today spotted a listing on LinkedIn for a position just like that at Twitter.
7. Meeting with bankers
Late last month, The New York Post reported that Twitter was essentially holding a bake-off for the company heading into the IPO, meeting for preliminary talks ahead of a formal selection process for underwriters. JPMorgan Chase, Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup, Bank of America, and Credit Suisse were among the names listed as potential underwriters in that report.
8. Buying Trendrr
Twitter has a major presence when it comes to live televised events — like the premiere of a new show or during events like the Oscars. So, in addition to Bluefin Labs, it also purchased Trendrr, pushing its TV chatter-tracking efforts even further. If Twitter can prove to advertisers that its users are engaging with content with respect to a live event (especially television), it can make an even easier case to sell premium ads.
9. Patience is a virtue
Twitter is waiting on its third-quarter financials before deciding on whether to file IPO paperwork this year or next, according to a new report by Bloomberg. Unlike many dotcom era IPOs, which would rush to an IPO, Twitter has been incredibly patient.
10. Let the memory of Facebook’s IPO fade
Since a somewhat disastrous initial public offering, Facebook has basically found its feet again — and a new mobile advertising business as well. Investors burned in Facebook’s IPO who might have been leery about buying into Twitter may take Facebook’s ability to regain its stride as an confidence builder to invest in Twitter.
With its mix of user and brand engagement, live event coverage and ad products, Twitter has very quickly turned its microblogging platform into a fully-fledged business operation. An eMarketer estimate earlier this year pegged Twitter’s ad revenue at around $139.5 million in 2011 and it’s expected to hit $582.8 million in 2013. Still small compared to Google or Facebook, but growing at a rather rapid clip.
As Twitter continues to vie with Facebook for advertising dollars in real-time events — and growing even beyond that — it is going to have to find its feet very quickly. A big pile of cash from an IPO is one way to help finance growth and innovation.