* Twitter names Ali Rowghani as chief financial officer
* Rowghani to begin at Twitter in March (Adds analyst comment, background)
By Alexei Oreskovic
SAN FRANCISCO, Feb 10 (Reuters) - Internet microblogging service Twitter named a chief financial officer on Wednesday, as the 2-1/2-year-old company steps up its efforts to make money.
Twitter said Ali Rowghani, the finance chief at Walt Disney Co’s (DIS.N) Pixar Animation Studios, will join the Internet start-up in March.
The move comes nearly four months after Twitter signed deals to license the stream of messages generated by its users, known as Tweets, to Microsoft and Google. The deals were widely reported to total $25 million, representing the company’s first material revenue.
Twitter is also exploring ways to tap other revenue streams through advertising and premium services.
“Until now it’s been a popular product, but to be a legitimate company, especially when you’re dealing with some of these big guys, I think it’s important to have a CFO in place,” said JMP Securities analyst Sameet Sinha, referring to Twitter’s potential efforts to court large brand advertisers.
Twitter, which allows users to broadcast short, 140-character messages to online “followers,” had 65.2 million unique visitors to its site in December 2009, according to comScore.
The San Francisco company is among the new breed of Internet social media services that are increasingly challenging Web giants such as Google Inc (GOOG.O) and Yahoo Inc YHOO.O for consumers’ online time.
Facebook, the world’s No. 1 social networking site, has 400 million active users and was expected to surpass $500 million in revenue last year, according to board member Mark Andreessen.
On Tuesday, Google introduced a new product dubbed Google Buzz that mimics many of the key social media features available on Twitter and Facebook. [N09124397]
Rowghani’s start comes as the company focuses on “creating value for our users and capturing the financial opportunities that result from it,” Twitter Chief Executive Officer Evan Williams said in a statement on Wednesday.
A Twitter spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.
The company, which had about 120 employees in January, has several job postings on its website devoted to “monetization.”
In September, Twitter raised $100 million in a move that valued the company at $1 billion, according to a person familiar with the matter, from backers including mutual fund giant T. Rowe Price and private equity firm Insight Venture Partners.
Reporting by Alexei Oreskovic; Editing by Leslie Gevirtz and Richard Chang