It has been just over a year since a technology company in Washington state — Bellevue-based Motricity — completed an initial public offering. But that’s likely to change this week. Zillow — the high-profile online real estate company known for its Zestimates — is expected to break the logjam and start trading on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “Z,” according to IPOHome’s IPO calendar.
There will be a number of eyes on Zillow — founded by former Expedia executives Rich Barton and Lloyd Frink and backed by Par Capital, Benchmark and others– as it attempts to enter the public marketplace.
Here are a few things to look out for on the Zillow IPO:
–Where does it price: Zillow boosted its IPO price range last week to $16 to $18 per share, leading to speculation that demand is growing for the company. Some are already thinking the stock, which would have a value at more than $450 million, might be pricey at those levels. Even so, many big Wall Street buyers will ignore an IPO if it doesn’t hit the $500 million market value threshold. Zillow appears like it will fall short in that regard.
–A litmus test: Zillow’s small size (revenue of just $11.2 million last quarter) could open the door for other unprofitable technology companies to test the IPO waters, which certainly will spark more talk of whether we’re experiencing a new Internet bubble. Bloomberg reports that the Zillow IPO “will signal whether other small dot-com companies can join the IPO frenzy.”
–The Pandora effect: The last single letter ticker-symbol Internet company to go public, Pandora, traded under the letter “P,” started with a bang during its first few days. But the online radio service has since fallen back to Earth, and is now down below its offering price. Zillow has more in common with Pandora than its single letter ticker. Both rely heavily on online advertising and both lost money during the most recent quarter. (Pandora lost $6.7 million to Zillow’s $826,000).
–Real Estate dominance: Zillow certainly has created one of the most powerful brands in online real estate, with the company attracting more than 22 million people to its Web site and mobile apps in May. But is that enough? And is it strong enough to knock others off a highly-lucrative perch, one which is estimated to be worth some $1.2 trillion. Trulia, the San Fran rival to Zillow, had some choice things to say about its competitor in a GeekWire interview earlier this year, and its IPO aspirations have been well documented. But Zillow beat its rival to the punch on the IPO, and as a result the rhetoric was elevated again this week when a spokesman for Trulia told Bloomberg that: “There are more agents buying advertising and more agent engagement on Trulia than there is at Zillow.”
–Is Zillow cheap at $16 to $18 per share: Bloomberg’s analysis shows that the online real estate upstart would be valued at roughly 10 times 2011 sales, relatively cheap compared to other recent Internet companies, including LinkedIn (26 times sales); Pandora (13 times sales) and HomeAway (16 times sales).
–Where’s the party: If Zillow successfully prices its IPO, executives will likely say that it is just another step in the company’s evolution. Fine. Heard that one before. But we still think staffers will want to party, especially if the first day trading exceeds expectations. (We are not sure whether Champagne corks will pop at the company’s offices. But, if you find out, let us know where the Zillow army ends up for the big bash).