Well, as CEO Rand Fishkin explains in a blog post today titled IPOs, Acquisitions, and The Long Term for Moz, there are several options that may arise as the Seattle software maker enters its next chapter.
In typical transparent form, Fishkin notes that the next phase of the 94-person company is exciting, humbling and a bit scary.
“When I think about the track we’re on for the next few years, I’m optimistic and I can’t wait to get there. I can clearly see a lot of needs for the products, data, and services we want to build and I think we can make a lot of marketers really happy. But long term, I’m a little scared,” he writes.
One thing is certain: SEOmoz is growing at a healthy clip, on pace to reach $20 million in revenue this year. Looking ahead optimistically, Fishkin writes that the company could hit $145 million in revenue by 2016. On the less optimistic side, it would grow to $69 million, he says. Next year, he expects the company in the $29 million to $33 million range.
Given those growth rates and the institutional backing of the company, Fishkin notes that there will likely have to be a path to liquidity for investors, which include Ignition Partners and Foundry Group.
And, as he tells it, the option that’s most appealing right now is a public offering. He writes about a possible IPO:
“This is the one we’ve really set our sights on in the last year. There’s a strong desire to build a big, public company in Seattle, and we think the field of professional inbound marketers is a tremendous, long-term market that could support several public companies. We want to have the freedom to think very long term (10+ years) and the capital to pursue remarkable technologies, data, people, and software.”
So, is an IPO really a possibility for SEOmoz?
There has certainly been a long dry spell of Seattle area companies making the leap to the public markets. (The last one to complete an IPO was Zillow, which went public at $20 per share 14 months ago).
Speaking of Zillow, the company’s 2010 annual revenue was $30 million when it filed to go public. SEOmoz isn’t quite there, so it may be a year or two before the company gets in the range.
Also, as Fishkin notes, the free-wheeling and transparent style of SEOmoz might not mesh very well with the short-term nature of the public markets. He writes:
There are a ton of rules around compliance and reporting that don’t fit with our culture at all. The things I like to talk about and tweet and discuss internally with our team wouldn’t be possible. There’d be no more of this or this or this. Public investors are short-term focused. They care about the next quarter and they can be brutal to a company’s culture and to a management team’s ability to focus. Discipline like what we see from Amazon is rare, and often, the long-term-focused CEOs lose out in the public markets because of the relentless demand for wins right now.
Nonetheless, Fishkin notes that an IPO could produce a bigger win for Seattle.
“I’ve often said at team meetings and in talks about Moz that I want to create a lot of new millionaires in Seattle who can give back to the startup and technology ecosystem and to their city in general,” he writes.
Editor’s note: SEOmoz is a GeekWire annual sponsor.