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Wait Till Next Year
Not So Ga-Ga Over Google? This Season's IPOs Left You Cold? Cheer Up -- 2005 Looks Hotter

August 30, 2004

By Constance Loizos

THE TERM "INITIAL PUBLIC OFFERING" has this year become almost synonymous with one company: Google. While the klieg lights still shine on the much-obsessed-about search engine that just went public, venture capitalists already are pondering the IPO class of 2005. With good reason. That class could be much stronger than this year's.

Many of its members boast virtues frequently absent from companies entering the public arena. Some have recurring -- and growing -- revenue streams. Most have solid, experienced management teams. And some are even profitable, or at least nearly so.

In fact, many outfits that could float initial offerings next year have more compelling stories than other companies already trading on Nasdaq.

Among those that forward-looking investors will want to watch -- and that they certainly will hear more about in the next 12 months -- are eLance, TechTarget and RiskMetrics, which provide business intelligence and other services; Airespace, Calix and Force10 Networks, which make telecommunications and networking gear; Danger Software, TellMe Networks, Vonage and Fandango, which sell consumer services; and security specialists Fortinet and FiberLink.

"We've come full circle," says Ray Lane, a former chief operating office of Oracle who's now a general partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, a venture-capital firm in Menlo Park, Calif. "Today, companies with momentum and solid earnings that they can replicate have the best shot of becoming strong, publicly traded companies."

Here's a rundown on some possible IPOs of 2005:

Airespace: This networking-gear maker has raised $58 million from venture investors, including $20 million this year. Since it began shipping access points, wireless controllers and other equipment in April 2003, the San Jose company has lined up 150 customers, including Fidelity Investments and HealthSouth. (Airespace hasn't disclosed its revenue, but people in a position to know say it has seen several seven-figure months and sales are ramping up quickly.) The company also has inked agreements this year to make equipment for Nortel, NEC and Alcatel.

Force10 Networks: Based in Milpitas, Calif., Force10 makes 10-gigabit switches typically used to aggregate lower-speed data streams. This allows delivery of, say, a DVD-quality flick in about a half-minute instead of hours.
Force10, which sports a customer list ranging from the Department of Homeland Security to Friendster, an online service that lets people line up dates and acquire new friends, expects to generate $50 million in revenue this year. Its board includes C. Richard Kramlich of bicoastal venture firm New Enterprises Associates, who has backed such companies as Juniper Networks, Macromedia and Silicon Graphics.

One of Force10's selling points: The annual market for 10-gigabit Ethernet lines -- capable of connecting groups of computers into what is effectively a single high-speed machine -- is expected to grow to $1.3 billion by 2006, up from $39 million just two years ago, according to research firm Dell'Oro Group in Redwood Shores, Calif.

Calix: Also in the networking sector, Calix makes a multiservice broadband loop carrier enabling voice, data and video services over fiber- and copper-access infrastructure. The Petaluma, Calif., company's customer list includes more than 120 relatively small telecoms, such as Frontier Telephone, Alltel and Century Telephone. That figure could balloon, because Nortel recently agreed to begin selling Calix products.

Obviously, venture capitalists think highly of Calix's prospects. The company has raised a jaw-dropping $274 million from them, even though its annual revenue is only somewhat north of $50 million. Weighing in its favor is its chief executive since February 2003, Carl Russo. He was running Cerent when that optical-transport-device startup was bought by Cisco for $6.9 billion in stock in 1999.

Fortinet: This company, like its rival FiberLink, is in the security industry, which is hot right now for obvious reasons. The industry encompasses everything from alarm and surveillance systems for homes, to equipment that protects enterprises from computer hackers, to hardware and software that keep organizations from running afoul of government regulations.

Fortinet makes a security appliance box that sits outside corporate networks to protect against viruses and attacks. It also reports and analyzes data produced by a wide swath of networking and security products. Based in Sunnyvale, Calif., it has raised $93 million from venture investors. Its revenue has been running at an annualized $60 million, and it has been flirting with profitability. Fortinet Chief Executive Ken Xie is regarded as an MVP in the venture-capital community. Xie founded and was CEO of NetScreen, a firewall appliance company that went public in 2001 and was sold in February to Juniper Networks for $4 billion.
FiberLink: Created 10 years ago, this BlueBell, Pa., company sells secure, Internet-based remote-access software and services, and manages the computer firewalls of Gillette, Computer Sciences and other major customers. In May the company bought the remote-access business of Level 3 Communications. FiberLink's sales are running at an annualized rate of $70 million.

Vonage: Within the consumer sector, this clearly is a company worth keeping an eye on. Vonage offers inexpensive phone service through voice-over-Internet-protocol technology, or VOIP. The company, based in Edison, N.J., has signed up 200,000 customers and is generating revenue at an annualized rate of $100 million, forcing conventional telecoms and cable operators to play catch-up.

Including its latest round of fund-raising, completed last week, Vonage to date has attracted more than $200 million in venture backing from firms including New Enterprise Associates and 3i.

Still, as a long-term investment, Vonage's chances of success are less certain. Unlike local phone companies and cable providers, it can't bundle its Voip service with TV or other offerings. There are drawbacks to the service, as well, most notably that it doesn't work during a power outage and doesn't immediately tell 911 operators where a call originated.

Danger Software: This outfit, based in Palo Alto, makes a versatile all-in-one wireless phone and e-mail "hiptop" device, with Web browser, e-mail, instant messaging, camera and games. It targets 18-to 34-year-olds instead of the crusty professionals more likely to use a Blackberry e-mail pager or Palm Treo.

The company, which has raised $114 million in venture financing since 2000, struck a deal this year with Sharp to produce its device in North America and Europe in time for the Christmas season. Previously Flextronics had produced the product exclusively. Analysts estimate that Danger Software has about 200,000 subscribers; some were acquired through T-Mobile, which markets Danger's service through its Sidekick smartphone.

Fandango: The annual revenue of this Santa Monica, Calif.-based movie-ticket seller is closer to $25 million than $50 million -- a yardstick that most venture capitalists use to determine whether a company is ready to go public. Still, Fandango is profitable, thanks to the high advertising rates it derives from movie studios and the exclusive contracts it arranges with theaters. The company, which appears to have raised all the capital it needs, claims to be working with nearly 70% of all U.S. theaters that are set up for remote ticketing. It intends to offer new products, including prepaid concession items and reserved parking.

TellMe Networks: This company manages the voice applications for a growing list of customers, including Delta Air Lines and FedEx, using a combination of voice-recognition technology and the Internet to replace customer-service representatives.

Since its founding in 1999, it has raised $238 million, including $185 million in 2000. Currently, the Mountain View, Calif., company is profitable and on course to generate $100 million in yearly revenue. Its president, Mike McCue, is a former vice president with Netscape, and its investors include Benchmark -- best-known for backing eBay -- and Kleiner Perkins.

ELance: This Sunnyvale, Calif., outfit is one of a growing number of service specialists meriting investors' attention. It largely scrapped its original mission as a Web-based marketplace for independent contractors. While that facet of its business still exists -- it has at least 40,000 registered users -- eLance now focuses on making enterprise software for procurement of legal, marketing, advertising, staffing and asset-maintenance services. It has raised $80 million from investors that include New Enterprise Associates and Kleiner Perkins.

RiskMetrics Group: Of all the companies likely to go public in 2005, RiskMetrics has raised the most venture capital this year. Spun off from J.P. Morgan, it provides risk-measurement and reporting services, including independent securities pricing, to hedge-fund managers, funds of funds and institutional investors. The company, which landed $122 million in June from a group headed by Spectrum Equity Investors and General Atlantic Capital, also provides analytics to hundreds of financial institutions, corporations and central banks around the globe.

TechTarget: Assuming there's a correlation between big late-stage venture-capital infusion and IPO filings, Needham, Mass.-based TechTarget might be on the road to a stock flotation in the not-so-distant future. The company provides targeted media and events for enterprise information-technology professionals.

It makes its money by collecting ad dollars from big vendors like Microsoft and IBM that want to make pitches directly to executives. It has raised $112 million since receiving seed funding in 1999 from United Communications Group. Of that total, $70 million came in a financing round led by Polaris Venture Partners and Technology Crossover Ventures.

Clearly, TechTarget's fortunes rest on corporations' advertising plans. It expects to report $50 million in revenue this year, up from $33 million in 2003, and looks for $100 million in 2007. Its investors think it has developed a more efficient way to home in on potential advertisers in the offline world. If they're right, TechTarget is on target to become a member of the IPO class of 2005.

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†AK and HI residents pay $29.95 shipping. ††Limited time offer. Valid for residents of the United States (&DC), 18 years or older, who open new accounts. Offer good while supplies last and only on new account activations. One kit per account/household. Offer cannot be combined with any other discounts, promotions or plans and is not applicable to past purchases. Good while supplies last. Allow up to 2 weeks for shipping. Other restrictions may apply.

1Unlimited calling and other services for all residential plans are based on normal residential, personal, non-commercial use. A combination of factors is used to determine abnormal use, including but not limited to: the number of unique numbers called, calls forwarded, minutes used and other factors. Subject to our Reasonable Use Policy and Terms of Service.

2Shipping and activation fees waived with 1-year agreement. An Early Termination Fee (with periodic pro-rated reductions) applies if service is terminated before the end of the first 12 months. Additional restrictions may apply. See Terms of Service for details.

HIGH SPEED INTERNET REQUIRED. †VALID FOR NEW LINES ONLY. RATES EXCLUDE INTERNET SERVICE, SURCHARGES, FEES AND TAXES. DEVICE MAY BE REFURBISHED. If you subscribe to plans with monthly minutes allotments, all call minutes placed from both from your home and registered ExtensionsTM phones will count toward your monthly minutes allotment. ExtensionsTM calls made from mobiles use airtime and may incur surcharges, depending on your mobile plan. Alarms, TTY and other systems may not be compatible. Vonage 911 service operates differently than traditional 911. See for details.

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