Twitter has attracted an investment fund from BlackRock to the tune of $80 million. The investment firm will buy shares from early Twitter employees seeking to liquidate stock options and holdings.
The move values the company at more than $9 billion, slightly higher than an investment by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal of Saudi Arabia, which pushed the valuation more than a year ago to $8.4 billion.
BlackRock, which declined to comment, had to contact employees to provide the means for the investment firm to make an offer, according to sources. Several hundred Twitter employees become eligible to sell their shares as part of the transaction, and some joined the company before 2009.
Twitter is rumored to take the company through an IPO later this year. Facebook and Groupon are two other companies that took a similar path, using transactions and secondary markets to cash out existing employees.
Estimates put daily Twitter searches at more than 1 billion daily. In fact, WordStream Founder Larry Kim puts that number at roughly two times more than Yahoo and Bing combined. Kim estimates Google searches at around 3 billion daily, worth around $250 billion.
Marketers would agree that no other site like Twitter exists. "A $9 billion Twitter valuation is roughly one-twenty-seventh of the Google valuation, which seems about right if you consider their search volume and the work they need to do to more effectively monetize that," Kim said. "It’s roughly one-ninth versus the Facebook valuation."
Twitter launched a mobile strategy virtually since day one. Google and Facebook continue to try to make mobile work.
Advertising and marketing come naturally on the Twitter platform. "There’s no inherent expectation of privacy on Twitter," Kim said. "So, they don't run into the privacy uproars and EU probes that Facebook runs into every time they try to make data available to advertisers and third parties for monetization and advertising purposes."
Twitter did not respond to requests for comment.