Twitter’s Financial Forecast Shows First Revenue In Q3, 1 billion users in 2013
by Michael Arrington on July 15, 2009

Our negotiations with Twitter (or rather Twitter’s lawyers) over our intention to publish a small subset of the 310 hacked confidential documents continue. We published the first document, a pitch for a reality television show called Final Tweet, earlier this morning.

Far more interesting, though, is this internal Twitter financial forecast from February 2009. Twitter has told us that this was never an official document and it certainly is no longer accurate. But it gives an interesting glimpse into the company’s financial targets nonetheless. The projections go forward to 2013.

The most interesting data point - As of February, Twitter expected their first revenue to come in Q3 2009 (which is now). A modest $400,000 was expected, followed by a more robust $4 million in Q4. The document also shows Twitter’s projected user growth (25 million by the end of 2009), which it has absolutely blown through already. By the end of 2010, Twitter expected to be at a $140 million revenue run rate.

As of February the company had $45 million in the bank (they’d raised $55 million at that time). And they expected the cost of each Twitter user to the company to be just over $1/year.

We’re including just the projections through 2010, the data for the following three years is too pie-in-the-sky to be useful. But here are the numbers they were targeting for the end of 2013: 1 billion users, $1.54 billion in revenue, 5,200 employees and $1.1 billion in net earnings.

So what’s the product that they believe will bring in $400k in revenue this quarter? That’s something we’ll discuss in our next post.

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  • You are really leaving us wanting to know more, such as how Twitter actually plans to start making some money.

    • I would be interested to know this as well. $4 million in Q4 is quite a lot. I wonder how they plan to jump from a modest $400,000 to $4 million in one quarter.

    • hey mike..

      if someone were to rip off your personal/business information by hacking into your computer, or rifling through your car, or your home, or your wallet, you’d have no issue with that would you?

      and please don’t use twisted logic to say you’re careful to not deal with “personal” information. no one has granted you the rights to play god with the allocation of stolen information.

      but in the event you do decide that you have the right to play god with the information, don’t be too stressed if someone jacks you, or your home/business for information and releases it to the public…

      peace..

      • as a follow up: does anyone else feel suspect that TechCrunch.com appears to be the *only* source of this Twitter leak? I mean, no other tech news source has any of the other documents Mike is holding on to.

        Just my thoughts.

      • i think he is showing how important security is in this day and age. “password” on server admins?? gimme a break.

      • Regardless of what you think of techcrunch publishing the docs, you will all be back to read every word anyway.

        It’s time to get over it.

      • I would second that. Simply voicing my opinion upon the whole “twitter-Pitch” analysis.

        You being an investor as well should know better of the validity of a financial plan build within the first few months/years of operations…

        I don’t think you are in any position to ethically and objectively assess this information.

        Please leave it at this and let’s move on onto legit, pragmatic and non-dramaturgic news-telling.

        Cheers

      • @timy11 said”if someone were to rip off your personal/business information by hacking into your computer, or rifling through your car, or your home, or your wallet, you’d have no issue with that would you?”

        Oh my heart bleeds for you poor parasitical geeks eating each other;)

        Do you geeks do any thing else apart from rip off people, whether it be your mates or eg musicians - by stealing what you don’t own then selling it on to a bigger sucker?

    • TC catches a lot of flack for many Twitter related post and even some feel Twitter was getting special treatment here. I think by now we all can agree the relevancy of Twitter and the impact their service has on real-time information and news.

      But seeing this info activity by Mike totally makes me believe that there was never no such favoritism, perhaps TC seen how hot Twitter would become before anyone else.

      I give TC credit here, but I do hope and believe that Mike will reveal info in a tasteful manner while trading on the edge of the line (without actually crossing it).

      Twitter does deserve this respect.

  • 1 billion users?!? That’s a bit overestimated I think.

    • no way Toni. If 1billion can watch Michael Jackson’s funeral, think about how much time all those people have to spare.

      • Facebook has 250 million and it’s really getting slow in gaining any more people right now. I believe most of the people that are ready to engage social media, already did.

        • define a “user” though… on facebook, most of those represent actual people. i’ve only got 1 facebook account, but about 4 different accounts i use on twitter. if they’re going by the number of accounts, i wouldn’t think a billion is too far off, but who knows.

          • … And I have created at least 75 Facebook accounts, but only 4 Twitter accounts.

            You can create a FB account, make it look as you need to, so that you can befriend the person that you want to find out info for, and then gain their trust. Sometimes that even entails creating a fake account, and then creating a dozen fake friends’ accounts, so that your fake account looks real.

            The value isn’t there (yet) for Twitter. People don’t hide as much on Twitter, so the reasons to scam them aren’t there yet.

          • How about we define ACTIVE users. I have had an account for over a year an only posted once to it. I bet there are many “inactive” accounts out there and, like in your case, people who have multiple accounts. Active AND User counts I bet are less than 25% of total accounts…

            Tom

        • Getting slower? Facebook just jumped from 200 to 250 million users in 3 months (and took 8 months to go from 100 to 200). Its getting faster.

          • ah, the great calculation puzzle:

            100-200 mio = 100% growth (in 8 months)
            200-250 mio = 25% growth (in 3 months)
            at that rate, it would take at least a year to double from 200 - 400 mio (the 100% growth rate).

            that. is. a. slow. down…

          • l2math

            “Slowing down” is a lessening in the rate of change. 100->200m in 8 months is an average rate of change of 12.5m / month. 200->250m in 3 months is a rate of change of 16.7m / month. How is gaining more users per month than in previous months a “slow down”?

            F-, see me after class.

          • @ngowdy : Classic!

    • 1 billion’s easily attainable if it takes off in developing countries where they have mobile phones instead of landlines.

      • yes, and hover boards instead of bicycles…

      • I would agree with Peter’s statement, but I think a primary reason is not the simplicity of twitter (hello dial-up!) alone, but also the amount of users on social networks other than Facebook.

        Here in Brazil, for exmaple, I know a whole bunch of people who are using twitter (and not just the geeks), while they don’t have a Facebook account. They feel comfortable sticking with Orkut (the defacto site here) for their social networking itch, but are using twitter too.

        And in The Netherlands, the most popular social network is ‘Hyves’, and many people do not actively use Facebook because they don’t know it, or because they have few active friends (although this is changing slowly).

        I think the same thing might happen in other countries where Facebook isn’t the standard. That’s a large amount of users!

    • 1 billion users does not mean 1 billion people.
      On each site, there’s a different correlation between fake and real users, active and inactive ones.
      Twitter might reach 1 billion users but it would still have a lot less real people than FaceBook, at least in the coming few years.

  • I don’t suppose this secret document discusses the business plan that gets them $1.54B in revenue, eh?

  • silicon valley dropout (@silvaldropout) - July 15th, 2009 at 12:44 pm PDT

    5200 employees doing what

    • They need people to make sure their servers are still down. They also need people to design more fail whales.

    • Twatting, duh.

      I always question the employee “requirements” seen by these sites. I mean seriously, a handful of guys or gals can handle something like this. One interface designer, a couple developers and maybe database/hardware guy.

      • I mean seriously, a handful of guys or gals can handle something like this. One interface designer, a couple developers and maybe database/hardware guy.

        I used to think like that. Then I graduated from high school. Cmon, unless you are still using Geocities you will know that even a decent web development company has more people than a couple of developers and designer. When you attack an established company, you have to be at least a little smarter than that if you want people to take you seriously.

        • You do realize how many major sites have grown from one or two guys sitting in a room. Plentyoffish.com is a MASSIVE example. FAR greater than anything Twitter ever hopes to be, and that is developed by a SINGLE guy.

          I’m not talking about a web development company, I’m talking about a “company” that develops ONE SITE. Like Twitter ( which is not established ).

          • You are honestly going to compare a site with a few updates to twitter? Are you really that foolish or you just don’t understand how big twitter actually is?

            The traffic fish generates in a week twitter more than likely does in a few seconds. Look at their forums. The whole forum is smaller than one day of twitter.

        • The company I current work for pulled in 320,000,000 British Pounds last year and there are only 1000 employees worldwide and that is for large scale worldwide manufacturing of physical product. Don’t argue with me over the ethereal world and how many developers and man hours it takes to maintain such things.

          I’ve done many large web development projects in the past 12 years, it doesn’t require an army.

          • Right because you ran social sites the size of twitter… 1000 employees for 320m? Is that supposed to be impressive? I take it you must run the company eh?

            It’s a social site which requires moderation, support for the users, technical support of a massive server farm, routers, switches, cabling, firewalls, caching, maintaining the API’s, the db, the code base, dev, HR, PR, Sales, etc… You really don’t have a clue.

        • While you’re right that many of us underestimate the amount of employees necessary for such an operation, I do think the number in the document might be a bit high.

          Remember that much higher traffic does not necessarily mean many more employees. Especially in a field dealing with mostly automated processes, once the infrastructure is there, and if it is well-designed, the employees needed don’t scale at the same speed as the amount of users/connections/whatever.

          Perhaps a breakdown of what these employees do exactly would explain it. I can see how support, PR, marketing etc. does need to increase with users, but that doesn’t quite explain the numbers mentioned.

          Then again, perhaps I am still underestimating things…

      • LOL, and one goes on holiday and you are screwed

        • MANY sites are doing just fine with a handful. These overblown high profile sites, with tons of wasted VC money love to milk everything they can for all of their buddies.

          Currently 30 people at Twitter. I want to hear from Evan himself what 30 people are doing to a site that can’t stay up for more than a week.

          • @Jason: you’re so silly… If your websites were so awesome why weren’t they on the cover of time magazin? (like twitter was)

  • An interested public is not the same as a public interest. Posting this stuff? What the fuck.

  • The only reality television I am watching at the moment seems to be Mike Arrington and the Twitter documents. This is classic. Keep whipping the horse!!! Harder.

  • I wonder if these are the financials they present to VC or if these are internal. No way those two are the same thing. And like everyone else, I too am curious about the business model. Are you sure it’s not “get popular, get bought?”

  • Wow..this drama is going to be as addictive as 24 or Heroes. Can’t wait for the next post.

  • Yeah, 1 billion is a bit much. Sorry to say, but Facebook has more value than Twitter right now in terms of general public. And Facebook hasn’t come no where near that amount. I hope all goes well with their monetizing efforts though!

    James F.
    TwitterBackground.com

  • Twitter will make its money by using full page ads every time you click on a link.

    • Twitter can make money by turning on advertising any time, it is their backup plan like Google’s was to use DoubleClick before AdWords’ success.

      But the plan A (aka monetizing 1 USD per active user during holiday season 2009Q4) is what TechCrunch and Twitter (forced by the leak) will announce soon.

      • Yes they can make money. But they never actually did make any money so they should get to it because there is no point in making imaginary dollars. When they finally do, all the VC investors will see it is less than expected and that is over hyped.

        While everyone else is following each others useless and redundant tweets I will continue on my low information diet and keep building my sites.

  • The only reality for Twitter is same as Spotify use Phorm to target the ads. Phorm is the only real way to make revenue on any social networking site.

  • Mike, Do you feel like your writing the articles of your life?
    Gonna drag these out over 6 weeks. build up the excitement.
    have u ever had this much heat on you?

  • Mike,
    Deny the fact you’ve had a hard-on for the last 24 hours

  • witih 1bn tweeters, newscorp will buy it for $1Bn+, put a 30s ‘time delay’ on ‘real time’ tweets & scoop news on a global basis constantly delivering new news. 1bn journo’s - filter mechanism - rupert murdoch - it’ll change the face of global media consumption (& value). oh, and of course, ads will follow, surrounding tweets with content aligned to adverts a la facebook. so, let’s say US$2Bn!

  • I cannot see how Twitter makes money. Where would the revenues come from?

  • My guess, next doc = Payment System!!!

  • honestly… 5200 employees? seriously now?

  • I question the ethics of posting this info, regardless of legality. If Twitter doesn’t want this info out, I think TC should respect that.

  • I don’t get all this morality fuss. If Twitter is going to make positive net numbers in the next year it will not be hinged on TC leaking data, it will rest on what they have to sell.

  • The document aims for 100 MILLION users, not 1 billion by the end of 2010.

    ..or am I reading it wrong?

    No way they could project 1/6th of the earth’s population.

  • that’s all a bit vague.

  • Average employee makes $140K/yr? Am I calculating this right? That’s some pretty good coin…

  • Not for the Bay Area. And anyway, it’s not the same as employee earnings, it’s total cost of the employee which includes stuff like health benefits, employment tax, several kinds of insurance and so forth.

  • Coming up next, @jack’s brilliant (not being sarcastic) paypal system for twitter.

  • That’s so funny - 1 billion users. Never gonna happen, not even in 3013! In 2013 we won’t even remember what Twitter was. Normal people (which is like 99.9% of the 7 billion people on this planet) care less about Twitter. Some of them try it and then quickly abandon it as a useless to them service. They get and like Facebook though - they can really stay in touch with friends and family. I’ve talked to many of my non-geek friends about Twitter and they are not gonna start using it. That’s the harsh reality.

  • that doc looks like someone just messing around. let’s hope that isn’t an official document…. kinda pathetic if it is.

    • You’re absolutely right. Have you ever filled out one of those online mortgage calculators or compound interest retirement calculators? I think that’s what this is. I saw Ev’s version of this document at Odeo when I worked there, and we never once referenced it or used it for decision making. The only interesting thing that I see in here is that it’s costing them $1/user/year.

  • Is this the original spreadsheet Twitter execs use to estimate revenue, profitability?
    Is this how Twitter calculates CTR, CPC and any other metric?
    As much as I have restrictions to MBAs in start-ups, please hire one Twitter. You’ve got a great product but It’s about time to get proper financial forecasts people actually believe.
    Throwing numbers on a spreadsheet like that shows a total lack of discipline by a start-up, which raised +US$ 55 million.

  • Hate to be the bad news bear here, but NO way they make they kind of revenue without knowing the demographics of their users (male/female/age/location) and then bringing in ad revenue. If you didnt notice on the Twitter signup page they never ask for your birthday or male/female like Facebook does. Twitter has a looong way to go before they target users with ads. Which is incredible they think they can increase revenue 10X in a quarter.

    PS: They will charge for API usage before anything else.

  • this doc doesn’t seem serious… looks like a 10-minute excel doc made for fun. Serious, 5.200 employees, 1 billion users.. that can’t be for real!

    Lindkold

  • Mike Arrington, twitter must be looking for a big fat pay day with this self induced mania inspired conspiracy theory.

    Why has only Techcrunch been ordained with this secret hacked information, usually these things are released all over the web, even if this was a ransom demand situation then there would be at least a scribd sample version, just for evidence show of material.

    I think twitter would’nt dear try monetising their application through fear of showing it to be unmonetisable, better to soak-up twitter mania in the hope for a dotcom boom situation.

  • that’s the most anti-ethical thing I’ve seen so far. this documents were stolen from twitter. you guys should know more than anyone that what you are doing is wrong!!! I really feel terrible for you guys.

  • Woh , Now its getting interesting. I am sure TC and twitter are going to get more pubicity because of this “hacking” revelation

  • Argh! The suspense is killing me! I want to know their revenue earner!

    Ya’ know having this information “leaked” to TechCrunch is great way to test their product’s public acceptance. They just have to listen to our reaction and if we don’t like it, they can say, “oh, well we were thinking about doing that, but we’ve since changed our mind. We’ve got something better and different now.”

  • The french website (http://www.korben.info/hack-de-twitter-la-suite.html) that announced in prime the news yesterday, is now down…

  • 1 billion users is a lot, but i think if the growth will be like now it can be possible.

  • As a developer, I would definitely pay money for the following things:

    1) firehose access.
    2) An in-house Ad-words like service for twitter (like twittersparq).
    3) Sponsored links on their search engine

  • How on earth are they going to realise these figures? Twitter are seemingly completely unwilling or unable to design a decent browser interface (or alternative) and not not only turn a blind eye to spam they given they the tools to do it

    If you look at the T&C almost nothing is banned. If it’s legal it’s allowed -allowing the seediest side of the Internet to go unchecked. They won’t even give the browser interface a button to report spam xD

    Following a recent #twitterfail (today) when a large number of accounts where accidentally suspended. So they create new ones to kick up a fuss - and as soon as they are created bots are latching onto them!

    Quoting a friend:

    @() Right am logging off for a mo as v pissed off to see 2 porn bots following whilst my real account is suspended.. Facebook here I come!

  • Everyone said the same thing about Google before it went public in the 90’s.

    Twitter has a currency called stock and thousands of applications built off of a powerful API that is growing like wildfire. It can buy just about any company it wants to monetize its’ platform when it files an S1 to go public.

    Onward and upward folks and lets embrace a new industry that no one understands yet. First we must evangelize all mainstream news organization who adopt the platform for citizen journalism.

  • What are the chances that over the next 3 years, a competing platform comes along and stops Twitters growth?

    Pretty high IMO

  • Can’t wait to see what this product is…just post everything. Who cares about lawyers!

  • Step 1 - collect underpants

    Step 2 - ?

    Stop 3 - Profit

    That’s the secret document isn’t it??

  • going from $400k to $4m IN ONE QUARTER is insane growth. I am doubtful they will do it.

  • Anyone get the feeling Twitter leaked this on purpose to get Mike to pump up the hype so someone will buy it quicker?

    • It has the smell of a set-up to generate valuation buzz and a buyers’ collective foaming at the mouth.

    • I agree with Michael Thies. I think it’s a hoax. There’s no way Twitter’s lawyers would ever let anyone publish this information. And besides you claim the information landed in your lap. How do you know the information is accurate. If someone claiming to have hacked into Twitter’s systems sent you this how do you know he didn’t just make this up? If someone did gain access to this information why would they send it to you?

      It looks very made up to me. Either that or someone at Twitter is very unprofessional when it comes to spreadsheets and should be fired. Lol.

      And besides, who cares about Twitter anyway?! Does anyone even use Twitter?

  • Biggest day dream of all time. 5,300 employees, 1 billion users, revenue jumping from 400 thousand to 4 million within a year. Dream on fellas. Don’t wake them up. Keep quiet and wait for them to go bust.

  • 1 billion users equals 2 billion spammers

  • Financial projections are like masturbation, they are a lot of fun while you are doing it, but they don’t really amount to much in the end.

  • $1/user/year.
    How do they cover all the SMS cost?
    Any idea?

  • 1 billion users “pie in the sky”.

    The best mental masturbation exercise I’ve ever seen. If Twitter can reach 150M users and a $25M run rate I’d call that a grand slam and these guys should put some lipstick and sell this pig.
    The only company on earth today that can hit that type of critical mass is a slightly bigger outfit in Silicon Valley by the name of Google. But, for comparison sake how many Gmail accounts does Google have today worldwide? - and we’re talking about email which is something just about everyone knows what the hell it is. Please!

  • I believe Twitter can definitely exceed $100m ARR in a relatively short period of time. But this model is simply ridiculous and makes no sense in terms of how and why it ramps.

    Beyond the nonsensical way it ramps, the fact that net earnings - ahem - go down to the cents level is pretty much a ringer for a preposterous model.

    Still, if I were a mid-stage VC, I would have invested ;)

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