Wednesday 25 April 2018

Mark Little appointed head of Twitter in Ireland

Mark Little
Mark Little
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

The former RTE broadcaster Mark Little is to become the head of Twitter in Ireland, with current chief Stephen McIntyre moving to join the Irish tech finance firm Frontline Ventures.

Mr Little is to take up the job next month. His appointment is the latest episode in a six year transformation from the world of journalism to global technology.

Mr Little's new role in Twitter means that he will be in charge of the social network's expanding European headquarters in Dublin, which now employs over 200 people and is the company's largest facility outside the US. He will also continue in his current media partnership role across Europe.

However, he will not assume Mr McIntyre's role as Twitter's most senior sales vice president in Europe.

Having served both as RTE's Washington correspondent and its anchor newscaster on the Prime Time television show, Mr Little left the state broadcaster in 2009 to start an online news sourcing company, Storyful, which he sold in 2013 to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp for €18m. He joined Twitter last year as head of media partnerships in Europe.

"Mark is a Twitter evangelist through and through," said the outgoing managing director of Twitter in Ireland, Stephen McIntyre. "His leadership experience as founder and CEO of Storyful sets him up perfectly for the role."

Currently based between two offices in Dublin's inner city, Twitter will soon move into a newly refurbished European headquarters adjacent to Merrion Square.

In Ireland, Twitter is the second biggest social network with approximately 900,000 users according to the research organisation Ipsos MRBI. Globally, 300m people regularly use the network. However, it has struggled to live up to market hopes with lower-than-expected revenue growth and no increase on its active user base over the last 12 months. Its advertising model lags behind perceived rivals such as Facebook and Pinterest, despite having 130,000 paying advertisers.

In its most recent annual results, Twitter grew its revenue from $1.4bn to $2.2bn, a 58pc increase. It lost $521m last year, down from $578m the year before.

New initiatives currently being rolled out by the company include an expansion of its advertising products to reach an additional 500m people that visit the site but who are not Twitter account holders. Facebook has just expanded its advertising system to sell ads to non Facebook account holders through use of cookies that attach to people's browsing history when they visit the Facebook.com website through a link from somewhere else like an email or a web page.

Twitter shares have risen this week on foot of hopes that it could be a target for acquisition by a larger company. The market sentiment has been spurred by Microsoft's $26.2bn takeover of Linkedin.

Twitter's Irish boss, Stephen McIntyre, is leaving the social network to become a venture capital financier with the Dublin-based Frontline Venture.

Mr McIntyre, who worked for Google before joining Twitter in 2012, is currently Twitter's most senior sales executive in Europe as well as the company's managing director for its Irish base.

"After four and a half of the best years of my professional life, I have made the very tough decision to leave Twitter," he said. "I’ve had a tremendous run at Google and Twitter but after a decade at US multinationals I’m ready for something new."

Frontline Ventures focuses on early stage tech investments in Irish startup companies. It lists the anti-ad blocking firm PageFair and the travel software firm Boxever among the startups it is currently backing.

"They’ve made 22 software investments in the UK and Ireland in the past three years and I see a lot of potential in that portfolio," said Mr McIntyre. "I hope my high-growth operating experience will be of benefit to some of these companies as they scale. Having run businesses very large and very small, I enjoy the building phase most of all."

Mr McIntyre is leaving Twitter at a time when it is facing significant challenges in meeting market expectations for its advertising business.

"I continue to believe in the importance of the Twitter service, which is more relevant culturally than it has ever been," he said.

In its most recent annual results, Twitter grew its revenue from $1.4bn to $2.2bn, a 58pc increase. It lost $521m last year, down from $578m the year before.

"Reports of our death have been greatly exaggerated," Mr McIntyre told the Irish Independent earlier this year. "58pc year-over-year growth makes Twitter one of the fastest-growing public companies in the world. And we've got 130,000 paying customers delivering more than $2bn in revenue. So there are a lot of customers who are very, very happy with what they’re getting. This is what has enabled this sort of growth."

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