Famous IPOs: A Brief Trip Down Memory Lane
Earlier this week Chelsi wrote a piece discussing the differences between consumer and enterprise IPOs. With the Facebook IPO on everyone’s radar this week, it got me thinking about what ever happened to some of the other more famous and hyped IPOs in recent memory.
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Way back when we had movies like Hackers, and The Net, – can you believe that they were fifteen years ago! Time flies… – the first “social media” company was born. Back in 1995, two Cornell college students, Stephan Paternot and Todd Krizelman launched a website that tried to make the web more accessible to all – TheGlobe.com.
Krizelman and Paternont had a dream. They wanted to make the Internet more accessible to everyone, by allowing users to easily register their own, personal web pages. The hype created by this company allowed Krizelman and Paternot to raise $20 million in funding from Dancing Bear Investments.
In 1998, just three years after its creation, TheGlobe.com filed for their IPO. In November, they had an initial offering netting them $841.8 million. TheGlobe.com’s IPO set a record for the largest first day gain of any IPO in history at that time, closing up 606%. Two years later amidst a growing concern about the new Internet economy, TheGlobe.com’s stock suffered and the two founders were replaced. A year later in 2001, TheGlobe.com was delisted from the NASDAQ and the company shut down.
I’m willing to bet that every one of you remember the dog sock puppet mascot of internet bust Pets.com. Did you know that Pets.com was founded back in 1994 as an online community for pet owners? Several years and many changes later, Pets.com became that online pet supply mega-store we remember.
All your pet supplies in one place, online at everyday low prices. This idea was so well-received that Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, decided to invest $50 million in the company; giving Amazon a 54% stake in Pets.com.
Despite their prominent, expensive and memorable advertising campaigns – including an ad in Super Bowl XXXIV and a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade balloon – Pets.com didn’t even manage to make it a full year. They IPO-ed in late 1999, only to close their doors later that same year amidst the famed dot.com fallout of 2000.
Back in 1996, a former Disney exec, Edward C. Lenk, wanted to do something that no one else had: launch the world’s first online toy store. So he quit his job at Disney and founded the web’s first online toy store, eToys.
eToys seemed to be situated perfectly at the crossroads of technology and timing. No other toy store had even thought about creating an online toy store. eToys was primed for market dominance. Lenk wasn’t the only one who thought that eToys was perfectly situated for success. By the end of 1997, eToys had secured $15 million in funding from Sequoia Ventures and Intel Capital.
A year after the site launched in 1997, it all looked good for eToys. Christmas 1998, the company say 3.4 million visitors and recorded sales in that quarter that was 20 times larger than in 1997. Several months later in 1999, eToys enjoyed a hugely successful $7.7 billion IPO. Despite this success, it was not to last. In 1999 Lenk embarked on a very expensive advertising campaign, and by 2000 the company was confronted with substantial financial problems. A combination of strong blizzards in the North East and the fact that the customers decided to visit brick and mortar stores the 2000 Holiday Season spelt real trouble. By February 2001, eToys only had enough cash to stay open through the end of March. By the end of the month, it filed for bankruptcy selling off its intellectual assets to KB toys for $3.4 million.
Co-founder of Silicon Graphics Inc. (SGI) and famed Internet executive, James Clark had an idea. In 1995, Clark noticed that the medical documents industry needed streamlining and updating leading to the founding of Healtheon – aka WebMD.
Clark’s Healtheon was created to be a central depository for medical records and billing. After gaining support and backing from Kleiner Perkins, John Doerr influences Clark to change the company’s direction.
By 1997, Healtheon had shifted its corporate strategy to focus on medical software development. Healtheon started developing software that would allow doctors to accomplish certain tasks such as check a patient’s coverage or making a referral to a specialist online. A year later, Healtheon acquired ActaMed (medical records clearinghouse for Dr. and insurers) for $150 million. In 1999, Healtheon and Atlanta based WebMD merge, dropping the Healtheon name. By 2004, WebMD became marginally profitable posting $150 million in profit and finally IPO-ed in 2005.
Research In Motion (RIM)
The all-too famous creators of the Blackberry, created back in 1984 by Mike Lazardis. Since inception, RIM has undergone various strategy shifts before finally focusing on mobile technology in 1987.
Lazardis was always interested in technology. It wasn’t until the Canadian telephone company, Rogers, contacted RIM to help them maximize their new mobile network, the Mobitex network, that led RIM to focus on mobile technology. A lot was learned during these early years with Rogers. However, it wasn’t until the proliferation of the internet and email that RIM’s corporate strategy solidified. From that point on RIM really became the company that we know it as today.
The company’s smash success with their Inter@ctive Pager in 1996 propelled the company to IPO on the Toronto Stock Exchange in 1998.That same year, RIM launches the RIM 950 Wireless Handset. This was the first RIM Handset that could send and receive emails, pages, faxes and do text-to-voice message. This success enabled the company in 1999 to list on the NASDAQ. In 2002, RIM launched the Blackberry 5810 – the first Blackberry with the capability of handling phone calls. The product subsequently, wins Infoworld Product of the Year & the 2002 PC Magazine Editor’s Choice Award. By 2009, RIM has more the 15,000 employees; BlackBerry becomes an icon of the corporate world. A year later in 2010, RIM Previews their 1st tablet, the Playbook, and a new OS to compete with the iPad. In April of 2011, the Playbook launches late to market and receives disappointing reviews. Months later, amidst slowing sales, RIM announces it will cut 2,000 jobs (~11% of workforce). In October 2011, a Global BlackBerry outage disrupts service to millions of customers and last December RIM announced possible strategic changes to be made. Unable to turn the tide for RIM, Mike Lazaridis decides to step down from the CEO position and was replaced by Thorsten Heins this past January. Are we witnessing the end of RIM? You decide.
I hope that this brief walk down memory lane was as exciting for you as it was for me. It should be interesting to see what the future holds for Facebook. Will it fizzle out? Or it this one of the few times that the hype is justified, and Facebook is destined for greatness? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.