Facebook chief Zuckerberg acknowledges missteps

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CEO disappointed by lagging share price; says social network wasted two years on mobile app that didn’t work.

Facebook Inc. Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg made his first public comments since his firm’s flawed initial public offering of stock on Tuesday, and acknowledged that his diminished stock price might encourage some employees to leave.

“It doesn’t help” incentivize employees, Mr. Zuckerberg said with a laugh during an appearance at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco.

However, the CEO added,”I actually think it’s a great time for people to join, and to stay and double down.”

Facebook staged an IPO in May that initially priced its shares at $38. But amid waning investor confidence in the social site’s prospects, its share price has since tumbled. Facebook shares closed Tuesday at $19.43.

Mr. Zuckerberg’s interviewer began immediately by noting that Facebook’s share price is about half of what it had been priced at in the IPO.

“The performance of the stock has obviously been disappointing,” Mr. Zuckerberg said. However, the CEO, who is often reputed to care less about financial performance than technology innovation, also made a conciliatory gesture to investors.

“Building a mission and building a business go hand in hand,” he said. While “the primary thing that makes me excited is the mission,” he added,”we’re about doing both.”

Mr. Zuckerberg also acknowledged missteps when it came to developing Facebook’s mobile phone services.

The CEO said his company wasted roughly two years focusing on developing services in the HTML5 programming language, and then transferring that over to mobile phones–a process that didn’t ultimately work.

“We burned two years, it was really painful,” the CEO said. Facebook’s mobile phone app has been widely criticized, and the company has only recently begun placing advertisements in front of mobile users. Mr. Zuckerberg said all of the criticism hasn’t necessarily been a bad thing, though.

“This is maybe a perverse thing,” he said, but “I personally would rather just be underestimated.”