Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘pandora’

Article from NYTimes.

Facebook shares will be tempting to buy when they start trading on Friday. The company has hefty profit margins, a household name and a shot at becoming the primary gateway to the Internet for much of the planet.

But if history offers any lesson, average investors face steep odds if they hope to make big money in a much-hyped stock like Facebook.

Sure, Facebook could be the next Google, whose shares now trade at more than six times their offering price. But it could also suffer the fate of Zynga, Groupon, Pandora and a host of other start-ups that came out of the gate strong, then quickly fell back.

Even after Facebook supersized its offering with plans to dole out more shares to the public, most retail investors will have a hard time getting shares in the social networking company at a reasonable price in its first days of trading.

Facebook’s I.P.O. values the company at more than $104 billion. And the mania surrounding the offering means Facebook shares will almost certainly rise on the first day of trading on Friday, the so-called one-day pop that is common for Internet offerings. At either level, Facebook’s price is likely to assume a growth rate that few companies have managed to sustain.

New investors, in part, are buying their shares from current owners who are taking some of their money off the table, a sign that the easy profits may have been made. Goldman Sachs, the PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel, and the venture capital firms DST Global and Accel Partners are all selling shares in the offering.

“It is a popular company, but it is still a highly speculative stock,” said Paul Brigandi, a senior vice president with the fund manager Direxion. “Outside investors should be cautious. It doesn’t fit into everyone’s risk profile.”

For the farsighted and deep-pocketed investors who got in early, Facebook is turning out to be a blockbuster. But by the time the first shares are publicly traded, new investors will be starting at a significant disadvantage.

Following the traditional Wall Street model, Facebook shares were parceled out to a select group of investors at an offering run by the company’s bankers on Thursday evening, priced at $38 a share. But public trading will begin with an auction on the Nasdaq exchange on Friday morning that is likely to push the stock far above beyond the initial offering price.

That is what happened to Groupon last fall. Shares of the daily deals site started trading at $28, above its offering price of $20. It eventually closed the day at $26.11.

The one-day pop is common phenomenon. Over the last year, newly public technology stocks, on average, have jumped 26 percent in their first day of trading, according to data collected by Jay R. Ritter, a professor of finance and an I.P.O. expert at the University of Florida.

In many of the hottest technology stocks, the rise has been more dramatic. LinkedIn, another social networking site, surged 109 percent on its first day in May 2011, and analysts say it is not hard to imagine a similar outcome with Facebook, given the enormous interest.

Unfortunately for investors, the first-day frenzy is not often sustained. In the technology bubble of the late 1990s, dozens of companies, Pets.com and Webvan among them, soared before crashing down.

At the height of the bubble in 2000, the average technology stock rose 87 percent on its first day. Three years later, those stocks were down 59 percent from their first-day closing prices and 38 percent from their offering prices, according to Professor Ritter’s data.

The more recent crop of technology start-ups has not been much more successful in maintaining the early excitement. A Morningstar analysis of the seven most prominent technology I.P.O.’s of the last year showed that after their stock prices jumped an average of 47 percent on the first day of trading, they were down 11 percent from their offering prices a month later. Groupon is now down about 40 percent from its I.P.O. price.

“It’s usually best to wait a few weeks to let the excitement wear off,” said James Krapfel, an I.P.O. analyst at Morningstar who conducted the analysis. “Buying in the first day is not generally a good strategy for making money.”

There are, of course, a number of major exceptions to this larger trend that would seem to provide hope for Facebook. Google, for instance, started rising on its first day and almost never looked back.

Even among the success stories, though, investors often have had to go through roller coaster rides on their way up. Amazon, for instance, surged when it went public in 1997 at $18 a share. But the stock soon sputtered, and it did not reach its early highs again until over a decade later. The shares now trade near $225.

More recently, LinkedIn has been trading about 140 percent above its offering price of $45, enough to provide positive returns even for investors who bought in the initial euphoria. But those investors had to sweat out months when LinkedIn stock was significantly down.

Apple is perhaps the clearest example of the patience that can be required to cash in on technology stocks. Nearly two decades after its I.P.O. in 1980, it was still occasionally trading below its first-day closing price, and it was only in the middle of the last decade — when the company began revolutionizing the music business — that it began its swift climb toward $600.

Facebook’s prospects will ultimately depend on the company’s ability to fulfill its early promise. It has a leg up on the start-ups of the late 1990s, which had no profits and dubious business models. Last year, in the seventh year since its founding, Facebook posted $3.7 billion in revenue and $1 billion in profit.

But investors buying the stock even at the offering price are assuming enormous future growth. While stock investors are generally willing to pay about $14 for every dollar of profit from the average company in the Standard & Poor’s 500 index, people buying Facebook at the estimate I.P.O. price are paying about $100 for each dollar of profit it made in the past year.

When Google went public in 2004, investors paid a bigger premium, about $120 for each dollar of earnings. But the search company at the time was growing both its sales and profits at a faster pace than Facebook is currently.

Facebook may be able to justify those valuations if it can keep expanding its profit at the pace it did last year, a feat some analysts have said is possible. But especially after the company recently revealed that its growth rate had slowed significantly in the first quarter, the number of doubters is growing.

“Facebook, by just about any measure, is a great company,” Professor Ritter said. “That doesn’t mean that Facebook will be a great investment.”

Read more here.

Read Full Post »

Article from NYTimes.

“Unable to break a three-day slide, shares of Groupon tumbled again on Wednesday, as more investors dumped shares.

For the first time since it went public earlier this month, Groupon broke below its offering price of $20 per share. Shares of Groupon fell 16 percent on Wednesday to close at $16.96.

The popular daily deals site had wrestled with intense scrutiny and volatile equity markets in the weeks leading up to its offering, but its debut was widely heralded as a strong performance. On its first day of trading, Groupon rose as much as 50 percent, before settling at $26.11 per share.

Wednesday’s drop is a disturbing signal for technology investors and other start-ups waiting to go public.

“Selling begets selling,” said Paul Bard, a director of research at Renaissance Capital, an I.P.O. advisory firm. “In the environment we’re in right now, investors are wary of risk, and so these less-seasoned companies will naturally face more selling pressure.”

Technology companies have largely outperformed other sectors in their debuts this year.  Shares of LinkedIn, for instance, doubled on their first day of trading, while Yandex, the Russian search engine, surged more than 55 percent on its debut.

But for many, the glitter has come off just as fast. Pandora, which went public in June, has dropped nearly a third from its offering price. Renren, often described as the Facebook of China, is about 74 percent below its offering price. Both Pandora and Renren tumbled again on Wednesday, with Pandora off roughly 11 percent and Renren down 6 percent.

According to data from Renaissance Capital, the technology sector has seen 41 I.P.O.’s this year, with an average first-day pop of 20.3 percent. Year-to-date, however, the group has lost about 13.1 percent in value.

The widespread pullback seems to suggest that investors, while eager to capitalize on first-day gains, do not have the confidence, or stomach, to hold on to the Web’s latest offerings. That apprehension is likely to be a major concern for high profile start-ups, like Zynga and Facebook, both of which are expected to go public in the coming months.

“When returns turn negative, that creates a problem for the I.P.O. market,” Mr. Bard said. “Because what’s the incentive to buy into the next I.P.O.? Bankers are now probably revisiting how many and which deals they will launch.”

Read more here.

Read Full Post »

Article from SFGate.

“Many of today’s hot startups are banking on mobile ad dollars to make their business work, but it’s an incredibly small market that’s only likely to support a handful of breakaway winners.

The constraint was underscored late last week, when Pandora Media’s CEO told Bloomberg that the online radio service can’t find enough marketers to fill all the ad slots created by its many mobile users.

Pandora boasts around 35 million dedicated users, who do 60 percent of their listening over smart phones and tablets. The obvious question is: If the 11-year-old Oakland company can’t find enough marketers to make use of its ad inventory, who can?

Other popular companies like Foursquare, Instagram, Twitter and Flipboard are mostly or exclusively free mobile apps that will mostly or exclusively depend on advertising.

So just how much is there to go around?

Research firm eMarketer estimates that mobile advertising will reach only $1.1 billion this year. By way of comparison, Google reported $9 billion in revenue last quarter alone, almost entirely derived from the broader online advertising market.

Will more money move to mobile and will some of these companies emerge as big winners? Sure.

Shifting ad dollars

But new media don’t create new marketing dollars, they just draw them from somewhere else. Advertisers are famously reluctant to shift money from something that’s been proven to work, to an area that’s untested.

The truth is, it’s still unclear to many what ad types and formats will be most effective on small mobile devices – general brand builders, discounts as you walk by a restaurant, ads for other apps?

The one thing that does seem clear is that mobile users are incredibly touchy about ads, resenting anything that appropriates the limited real estate of their screen, arrives as a text that counts against their allotment or interrupts what they’re doing. So marketers are rightfully treading carefully.

Jack Gold, a technology analyst with J. Gold Associates, says mobile advertising is a promising sector that, for now, is just that: promising.

The other thing to keep in mind is that, whether it’s TV or tablets, the biggest outlets with the best return on ad dollars grab the lion’s share of marketing. Everyone else is left fighting for the scraps.

Gold said the phenomenon unfolding now is strikingly similar to the late 1990s, as hordes of companies marched onto the Internet, confident they could garner the traffic (back then they called it eyeballs) necessary to build businesses on ads alone. History demonstrated in brutal fashion that the vast majority could not.

“It’s almost certain that you’re going to see another shakeout,” Gold said. “That always happens. Always.”

Read more here.

Read Full Post »

Article from NYTimes.

“For Reid Hoffman, the chairman of LinkedIn, it took less than 30 minutes to earn himself an extra $200 million.

With the hours ticking down to his company’s stock market debut, Mr. Hoffman dialed into a conference call from San Francisco’s Ritz-Carlton hotel as his chief executive, Jeff Weiner, and a team of bankers raced up from Silicon Valley in a black S.U.V. to meet with potential investors.

Demand for shares was intense, and they decided to raise the offering price by $10, to around $45.

When trading began on May 19, LinkedIn did not open at $45. Or $55. Or $65. Instead, the first shares were snapped up for $83 each and soon soared past $100, showering a string of players with riches and signaling a gold rush that has not been seen since the giddy days of the tech frenzy a decade ago.

Now there are signs that a new technology bubble is inflating, this time centered on the narrow niche of social networking. Other tech offerings, like that of the Internet radio service Pandora last week, have struggled, and analysts have warned that overly optimistic investors could once again suffer huge losses.

That enthusiasm was on full display in the blockbuster debut of LinkedIn, which provides a window into how a small group — bankers and lawyers, employees who get in on the ground floor, early investors — is taking a hefty cut at each twist in the road from Silicon Valley start-up to Wall Street success story.

“The LinkedIn I.P.O. will be used very powerfully over the next year as these companies go public and bankers deal with Silicon Valley,” said Peter Thiel, the president of Clarium Capital in San Francisco and an early investor in PayPal, LinkedIn and Facebook. “It sets things up for the other big deals.”

The sharp run-up after the initial public offering set off a fierce debate among observers about whether the bankers had mispriced it and left billions on the table for their clients to pocket. But the pent-up demand for what was perceived as a hot technology stock set the stage for easy money to be made almost regardless of the offering price.

Naturally, Wall Street is enjoying a windfall. Technology I.P.O.’s have generated nearly $330 million this year in fees for the biggest banks and brokerages, nearly 10 times the haul for the same period last year, and the most since 2000.

Besides the $28.4 million in fees for LinkedIn’s underwriting team, which was led by Morgan Stanley, Bank of America and JPMorgan Chase, there were also a few slices reserved for specialists like lawyers and accountants. Wilson Sonsini, the most powerful law firm in Silicon Valley, collected $1.5 million, while the accounting firm Deloitte & Touche earned $1.35 million.

Mr. Hoffman founded LinkedIn in March 2003 after making a fortune as an executive at PayPal, the online payments service, but even as LinkedIn grew and other employees and private backers got stakes, Mr. Hoffman retained 21.2 percent, giving him more than 19 million shares when it went public. He has kept nearly of all them, so for now his $858 million fortune — it was $667 million before the last-minute price hike — remains mostly on paper.

Mr. Weiner arrived more recently, in late 2008, after working at Yahoo and as an adviser to venture capital firms, but his welcome package included the right to buy 3.5 million shares at just $2.32. And they are not the only big winners who secured shares at levels far below the I.P.O. price.

For example, when LinkedIn raised cash in mid-2008, venture capital firms including Bessemer Venture Partners and Sequoia Capital, scooped up 6.6 million shares at $11.47 each in return for early financing. They have held on to the stock, but Goldman Sachs, which got 871,840 shares at $11.47, sold all of it for a one-day gain of nearly $30 million.

Scores of fortunate individuals also managed to profit.

Stephen Beitzel, a software engineer, worked at LinkedIn from its founding until March 2004, but kept his stock when he left. His shares are now worth $17 million, and he sold $1.3 million worth in the offering.”

Read the complete article here.

Read Full Post »

Article from GigaOm.

“The tech industry’s initial public offering waveis showing no signs of slowing.

CafePress filed its S-1 with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday. The San Mateo, Calif.-based company is looking to raise up to $80 million in an IPO to be underwritten by J.P. Morgan, Cowen and Company, and Jefferies, according to the filing.

CafePress was founded in 1999 and sells user-customized products such as clothing, accessories, posters, stickers, and housewares through its flagship website CafePress.com. The company also owns a portfolio of other sites, such as CanvasOnDemand, which turns photographs into canvas artwork, and Imagekind.com, which sells artwork from independent artists.

CafePress is profitable and apparently growing. According to the filing, the company made $2.7 million in net income on $128 million in revenues in 2010. In the first three months of 2011, CafePress made $32 million in revenues, about 45 percent more than the $22 million it made in the first quarter of 2010. Last year, the company posted adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, debt and amortization (EBITDA) of $14.5 million.

But while the company’s financials are certainly solid, one could argue they’re not exactly spectacular. CafePress’ average order size has hovered around $47 for the past three years. The company’s top-line annual revenues have see-sawed recently, from $120 million in 2008, down to $103 million in 2009, and back up to $128 million in 2010. In the filing, CafePress blamed the 2009 dip on “macro-economic conditions in our primary markets that reduced discretionary spending by our customers coupled with the absence of election year sales.”

CafePress is just the latest in a recent series of Internet companies making moves toward the public markets. In the past month, LinkedIn, Yandex and Fusion-io have gone public, Groupon filed an S-1, and Kayak and Pandora have issued optimistic S-1 updates. Whether the activity represents another tech bubble or just a healthy and growing economy, it’s certainly shaping up to be a very busy summer for Silicon Valley.”

Read original post here.

 

Read Full Post »

Article from GigaOm.

“A year and a half ago, I spent a few hours at the offices of Hunch, a New York-based startup, learning about their decision engine. By asking you seemingly random questions, the engine helped you make decisions. Hunch’s engine was a nice way to aggregate what you liked, then help you find information based on that assumption. For me, the real potential of this decision engine was commerce, and that’s why I thought perhaps Amazon should buy Hunch. It could use the decision engine to help customers sift through the ever-expanding array of offerings and make purchasing decisions. That little kernel of an idea still looms large in my thinking, especially as I wonder what the future of media and e-commerce looks like.

Social Spending

Last week, I was chatting with Lightspeed VC’s Jeremy Liew, who has invested in companies such as Bonobos, ShoeDazzle and LivingSocial. He pointed out that the first phase of e-commerce was about shopping for staples. It was utilitarian, and he pointed to the success of companies such as Diapers.com, Amazon and Zappos. The next phase of e-commerce is about recreational shopping, and as a result, it needs to be a more fun and social experience.

No wonder there seems to be a growing obsession with companies such as Groupon and LivingSocial, part of an amorphous category called “social commerce,” which means different things to different people. Elizabeth Yin, co-founder of the wedding apparel shopping service Shiny Orb, wrote in a guest column: “the social shopping space is comprised of e-commerce sites that facilitate interaction among customers as part of a shopping experience.”

If that is indeed the case, I have to say today’s social commerce companies need to build deeper social experiences. But how? And where does social commerce go from here?

Enter the “Interest Graph”

In July 2010, Chris Dixon — co-founder of Hunch — noted we would soon enter a phase where “one graph to rule them all” will give way to more-focused, social graphs built around concepts such as taste, location and trust. In other words, these concepts could become the underpinning of what is now generically known as the interest graph.

At its very core, the interest graph is a way to organize a social network based on people’s interests. For instance, if you’re a fan of Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan, it’s clear self-destructive Hollywood stars and their lives are what you’re interested in. The interest graphs are built through various mechanisms: by following people whom you deem as experts, through your likes and shares, etc. In the middle part of the last decade, we tried to do this through tags.

These interest graphs are more like mini-Twitters. Just as you can follow someone — Will Ferrell, for example — without being his friend, you can have an asymmetrical relationship with someone who has similar musical interests or taste in watches. As a blogger for Asset Map, a San Francisco-based startup, noted:

Music, movies, books, articles — these are all things where people have tastes that aren’t always influenced by friends — or at least not a big group of your friends. It’s no surprise to me that the most successful music services so far are things like Last.fm and Pandora that are far more organized around your musical interest graph than your musical social graph (AssetMap Blog)

Interest Graph + Commerce = Transactions

Interest graph, for me, is the underpinning of a new kind of e-commerce experience. Think of it as a new kind of social commerce experience that goes beyond the notion of group shopping (Gilt Groupe, Groupon), shopping communities and recommendation engines. When Apple launched Ping, its music-oriented social network last year, to me it represented a template for social commerce.

Since Ping’s launch, I’ve downloaded songs based on the likes and recommendations of people who are not necessarily my friends, but who I follow because they have good taste in music. Sure, I have friends who are good at picking tracks, but Ping’s social layer has helped me discover new artists.

A few years back, I met Jeff Bezos and asked him why he was buying up content sites. I suspected the Amazon founder wanted to eliminate the “advertising” between commerce and content. If you remember, in 2007, Amazon bought DPreview, a digital camera community, and later acquired IMDB, a movie database.

As always, Bezos was a little ahead of the curve. In the post-Facebook, post-Groupon world, one can see a new kind of symbiotic relationship emerge between the interest graph and the “sellers.”

The concept is no different from enthusiast magazines of the past, such as Stereo Review, except there are “network effects” at play. Network effect, according to the Wikipedia definition is, “the effect that one user of a good or service has on the value of that product to other people.”

While enthusiast magazines were limited by the geographic boundaries and dollars publishers could spend on attracting new customers, in the Internet age, the network allows us to spread the word at a rapid clip, especially amongst people with similar interests. More importantly, since sellers can target the exact interest graph they want, they can skip advertising entirely. Instead, they can come up with an actual offer that leads to a transaction.

For entrepreneurs, I believe there are opportunities to create unique experiences around the concept of “interest graphs” that can be built off the backs of uber-networks such as Facebook and Twitter. These networks can help find the right kind of audience to build a viable channel for new commerce experience.”

Read original post here.

Read Full Post »

Here is some Techcrunch news.

“Last week we invited Greylock’s David Sze and Reid Hoffman into the studio for a chat about the state of the venture market, with its odd mix of soaring valuations and horrible returns. As it turned out, these two might be the worst guys in Silicon Valley to ask. I don’t say that because they refuse to pay up to be in good companies. (See Sze’s 2006 investment in Facebook—considered shocking at the time due to the company’s $500 million valuation, now considered one of the top trades in Web 2.0 history.) I say that because their portfolio doesn’t seem to be hurting.

We’ll be posting the full interview soon, but first here’s a sneak peak, including this bold statement from Sze about the funds the firm has been investing over the last five-to-seven years: “We think those will be our best funds ever.” Ever? That’s a claim I can’t imagine many Silicon Valley firms making—especially those that were in business during the late 1990s when nearly anything could go public.

Later in the video below, Sze noted that Greylock had three of the five potential blockbuster Web IPO candidates on most bankers’ and analysts’ short list: Facebook, LinkedIn and Pandora. As you can see in the video that last one caught Arrington by surprise and with good reason: A little more than a year ago Pandora was still on deathwatch. We knew it was profitable but, if it’s being bandied about as an IPO-hopeful, things may be even better than people realize. The good thing about being the only online music company to live long enough to go public is you don’t have a ton of competition.”

Read the full article here.

Read Full Post »