Tech Check

OpenTable Opens the IPO Window


Lo the power of a successful initial public offering, and a crush of private companies are now scrambling.

And all of this action comes thanks to OpenTable and its wildly successful initial public offering last week. It was supposed to go at between $12 and $14. Then days ahead of the offering, it went to $16 to $18. Then, the day of the offering, OpenTable went out at $20 a share. It jumped 50 percent in value that first day and juiced chatter that a new chapter in dot com boom times was opening.

Of course several pundits were out quickly with prognostications that Open would fall hard after that first day of irrational exuberance. Sure, shares are below $27 today, but that hardly justifies the analysts' worries that this company would come back down to earth. This was an overwhelmingly successful offering, and now others are lining up.

  • OpenTable Quote Page

Just as Piper Jaffray's Gene Munster who is in Southern California this week, meeting with a crop of private companies looking to stake their claim on Wall Street. Open Table, he says, speaks volumes about the IPO window: Not only is it a dot com, but a dot com specializing in the restaurant business, which goes to show that people are eating out again.

Years ago, one of my first editors, Scott Smith at the San Jose Business Journal, told me that if I wanted to get a good glimpse into the health and welfare of the local economy, I should eat out and see how crowded the restaurants were. It proved a worthy barometer. OpenTable might be an economic barometer of a new a generation, not just for IPO's, but the broader economy as well.

In fact, even today, CKE, Brinker and Darden are all rallying in casual dining.

Meantime, Munster is optimistic that OpenTable might merely be the first kernel to pop in a bag of popcorn in the Wall Street microwave.

To that end, he's meeting with Specific Media, Glam Media,Adconion,Reach Local and eHarmony. Lots of media and advertising, and Munster says "they're starting to show some life.". Not clear when these companies are going out, for how much, or even how successful they'll be. But they're doing a fair amount of toe-dipping and are certainly worth watching.

"Display advertising was the first to get cut, and that's basically beginning to turn around," says Munster. So this actually might also be a good window into Google and Yahoo as well since Display Advertising is such a big deal for them as well.

With Changyou from China, Rosetta Stone ,Bridgepoint , and now OpenTable, it's not as if these are the four best examples of strong tech IPO's. These are the ONLY IPO's.

But even big, raging conflagrations start with a single burning ember. Munster won't say when the fire will take off, but it appears the slow burn has begun.

Questions?  Comments?