It was a tough year for most of the publicly-traded tech companies in Washington state, with just a handful posting positive overall stock performance. Even tech titans like Amazon.com, Microsoft and F5 Networks shed value in 2011, marking an overall negative year on the Nasdaq.
In fact, the tech-heavy Nasdaq dropped 1.8 percent during 2011, the first annual loss since 2008. The Dow, meanwhile, gained 5.5 percent.
Here’s a look back at how the public tech companies fared. Interestingly, it was two dot-com survivors — InfoSpace and Market Leader (formerly HouseValues.com) — which led the charge into positive territory. A newcomer, Zillow, also came on to the scene with a bang as the only tech IPO in Washington state.
Amazon.com: The Seattle online retailer topped 50,000 employees in 2011, released the Kindle Fire tablet computer and generally was one of the bright spots in the tech community. And while Amazon’s stock peaked at $246 per share in October with a market cap topping $100 billion, it gave back much of those gains in recent months. Amazon took a beating after its third quarter profits fell by 73 percent, leading to a loss on the year.
2011 close: $173.10, down 4.26 percent on the year.
Blue Nile: The online jewelry retailer saw its stock tail off as consumers became a bit more cautious about luxury purchases. The Seattle company’s stock plummeted further after long-time CEO Diane Irvine unexpectedly stepped down in November after posting disappointing numbers.
2011 close: $40.88, down 28 percent on the year.
Bsquare: You know it is bad when your CEO publicly declares that he’s disappointed with recent financial performance. And that’s what happened in November when Bsquare CEO Brian Cowley noted that investments weren’t paying off as quickly as they’d hoped, pushing the Bellevue tester of mobile software and equipment to a third quarter loss.
2011 close: $3.42, down 60 percent on the year.
Clearwire: The Kirkland provider of high-speed wireless service continued to lose piles of money (and a number of board members and executives) as it struggled to make the transition to a new technology infrastructure known as LTE. Even though Sprint eventually came through with a much-needed cash infusion, that alone was not enough to convince investors of Clearwire’s future prospects.
2011 close: $1.94, down 62 percent.
Concur: The Redmond maker of travel and entertainment expense management expanded its footprint in 2011, buying TripIt and London’s GlobalExpense. And CEO Steve Singh indicated that the investments would continue going into the new year, telling investors in November that great opportunities lie ahead. “In order to capitalize on the robust demand environment, we will significantly ramp our investments across the business,” Singh said. Certainly, a company to watch in 2012.
2011 close: $50.79, down 2.9 percent.
Cray: The Seattle supercomputer maker kicked off the SC11 conference in its hometown with some huge news, announcing that he had won a $188 million contract to install one of its systems at the University of Illinois’ National Center for Supercomputing Applications. Shares jumped, but not enough to reverse some earlier downward pressure on the stock from August when the company lost its longtime CTO and experienced parts supplier challenges.
2011 close: $6.47, down 9.7 percent.
Data I/O: One of the oldest technology companies in the Seattle area, Data I/O saw its profits shrink for the first nine months of the year as it invested more in research and development. The Redmond company saw revenues increase slightly to $20 million for the first nine months of the year.
2011 close: $3.74, down 34.8 percent.
Dendreon: The one-time high-flyer of Seattle’s biotech industry fell off a cliff in early August. In just one day, the stock fell from $35 per share to $11 per share as the company experienced slower demand for its Provenge prostate cancer drug treatment. By September, Dendreon had cut 500 positions as the stock fell even further.
2011 close: $7.60, down 78 percent.
Expedia: Celebrating 15 years in business, Expedia’s shares expectedly took a nose dive after the Bellevue online travel juggernaut spun off its TripAdvisor review site into a separate publicly-traded company. Expedia, without TripAdvisor, now has a market value of $3.8 billion. Interestingly, that’s just slightly above the $3.1 billion that Wall Street places on the much smaller TripAdvisor business.
2011 close: $29.02, down 42 percent.
F5 Networks: F5 achieved a huge milestone in October, announcing that it had surpassed $1 billion in annual revenue. Nonetheless, investors still sent the stock on a downward path. The maker of software and hardware products to speed up the delivery of applications over the Internet still boasts a market value of $8.4 billion, making it one of the biggest technology companies in the state.
2011 close: $106.12, down 18.4 percent.
Google: Though technically not headquartered in Seattle, the search titan does now employ close to 1,000 people in the region. Given that, we decided to take a look at its stock performance in 2011. Compared to rivals like Microsoft, it was a solid year for Google as Google+ took off and Android continued to gain market share.
2011 close: $645.90, up 8.7 percent.
InfoSpace: A surge over the past month propelled InfoSpace to new heights in 2011. Though the Bellevue Internet search company likely will never return to its dot-com glory days (once trading above $1,000 per share), InfoSpace continues to sit on a huge cash pile of $279 million. The company has said that it plans to use some of that cash for acquisitions.
2011 close: $10.99, up 32 percent.
Marchex: The Seattle online advertising company continued to make its transition into the call advertising business. But the stock encountered plenty of turbulence throughout the year.
2011 close: $6.25, down 34 percent.
Market Leader: The online real estate company may have been overshadowed by Zillow’s initial public offering (see below). But Market Leader rebounded, trimming its net losses and showing an uptick in revenue.
2011 close: $2.75, up 56 percent.
Microsoft: Steve Ballmer can’t catch a break. Despite meeting Wall Street profit expectations and posting record revenues for the most recent quarter, the software giant still saw its stock sink. Many have continued to call for Ballmer — the brash and bombastic CEO — to step down amid weakness in key areas such as mobile phones and tablet computers. The company’s server and tools division as well as entertainment and devices — which includes the raging success of the Xbox 360 — have continued to do well for Microsoft.
2011 close: $25.96, down 6.9 percent.
Microvision: The maker of the Pico projection system saw its stock take a beating, racking up a whopping $7.7 million quarterly loss during the third quarter. At the time, Microvision warned investors that it had only enough cash to survive through January. To make matters worse, the company received notice from Nasdaq in late October that its stock was in danger of being delisted for not meeting minimum listing requirements for the stock exchange.
2011 close: 36 cents, down 80 percent.
Motricity: The worst stock performer of the bunch, Motricity had an awful 2011 after it surprised Wall Street with bigger losses. The maker of mobile software lost nearly all of its value and is now looking to sell off its assets. In August, longtime CEO Ryan Wuerch stepped down, part of an executive purge at the struggling firm. That same month, a class action suit was filed against the company alleging that it issued “materially false and misleading statements to investors.”
2011 close: 90 cents, down 95 percent.
RealNetworks: RealNetworks was a company in search of a mission and new leadership in 2011. After CEO Bob Kimball unexpectedly stepped down in March, Real spent eight months trying to find a replacement. In November, the company finally named former Adobe exec Thomas Nielsen as CEO. He’ll have a tough road ahead of him, trying to regain some stature for the Seattle tech stalwart.
2011 close: $7.50, down 55 percent.
Zillow: The only IPO of the bunch, the online real estate company surprised some with its strong debut on Wall Street. It was a big year for Zillow, with Spencer Rascoff and crew not only guiding the company to an IPO but also profitability. Zillow also bought two companies in 2011, and topped 25 million monthly unique visitors for the first time. The company priced shares in July at $20, with the stock rising to $35 on its first day of trading. It has since falling, in part because insiders at the company were able to cash out early. But Zillow’s IPO was still one of the best performers in tech this year.
2011 close: $22.48, up 12 percent from the $20 offering price.