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Zynga CEO Mark Pincus Explains The Pros And Cons Of Being A Public Company

Sure, going public in a predictable industry would be more fun. But being a company in transition doesn't make an IPO less necessary.

With Zynga’s stock trading at about 20% of the price it opened at last December, it was surprising that, when asked by Fast Company Editor-in-Chief Bob Safian about the consequences of becoming a public company, CEO Mark Pincus chose to start with the pros.

"We want to build an Internet treasure," he said at Fast Company's Innovation Uncensored Conference in San Francisco Thursday. "From the beginning…I wanted to build a company that could sustain not for two years or four years or even ten years but be something that really matters over time the way Amazon and Google and others have."

"The only way you can do that is to go public. I haven’t seen another way."

Liquidity helps sustain quality talent and investors, and going public is a way to achieve it without selling the company. But Zynga has lost several key employees as its stock price has tanked, and going public has also brought with it some clear cons.

Transitions can be more difficult under the scrutiny of Wall Street. At the beginning of its life as a public company, Zynga is going through what Pincus calls its biggest transition ever. Long almost entirely dependent on Facebook for its income, the company has recently refocused its efforts on mobile games. Where once its mobile division focused on "with friends" games, this quarter no games were greenlit without a mobile component.

"Clearly as you move to being a public company, probably even more than growth, there is a huge value based on predictability," Pincus says. "And we have not delivered on that predictability lately that we would like, that our investors would like."

Listen to the full audio: Zynga CEO Mark Pincus in conversation with Fast Company Editor-in-Chief Robert Safian:

Meanwhile, he says, employees go home for Thanksgiving and need to answer questions about the company because its news is now "everybody's news."

"It’s hard, but I think it’s hard for any new company in a new industry to be public so early," he said. "We’re still in an emerging and transforming market. It would be more fun at a point that the platforms and markets were if the market for social gaming were more defined and predictable."

[Image: Adm Golub]

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  • ChrisIK

    This is nothing but cons. If zynga wanted to last for several years as a public company, they would have been smarter and improved upon their company for a few years, and taken it public after gaining a bit of support from the public. As a public company, zynga NEVER had a single moment of peace or happiness, the stock plummeted since day 1, and it's clear that Pincus regrets that. Zynga's future remains in jeopardy, considering that investors are sick and tired of acting optimistic towards them since they clearly cannot seem to impress anyone. I think in a year or 2, they will be gone. Same goes to groupon, who might even be gone sooner