A smallish software company called NetSuite filed papers Monday with the SEC to go public. If it weren’t for the fact that Larry Ellison controls 74% of the company and that the online software provider for businesses is a relentless press hound you’d probably never have heard of this company.
As NetSuite prepares to public it will be making a lot of comparisons between itself and other companies. For instance, because it will go public using the auction method, NetSuite will point out that it’s the first big tech IPO to do since Google (GOOG). Because the company delivers its services online, it will compare itself frequently to Salesforce.com (CRM), another company Ellison, the CEO of Oracle (ORCL), helped fund.
In the spirit of comparisons, here are some NetSuite probably won’t make. NetSuite, you see, was founded the year before Salesforce.com, 1998, the same year Google was founded. When Salesforce.com filed to go public in 2004, its last full year of revenues weighed in at $96 million. It made $3.5 million that year. Google, which also went public in 2004, had revenues the previous year of $1.5 billion and profits of $106 million. As for NetSuite, which started hyping its IPO last December, its last full year of revenues were $67 million, on which it managed to lose $23 million.
There’s also the comparison of spending. NetSuite spent $44 million on sales and marketing last year, 65% of its revenues. Even the hilariously freespending Salesforce.com spent “only” 57% of its revenues on sales and marketing in its last full year before going public — and it made a profit that year.
One wonders with numbers like this why NetSuite is rushing to go public at all. Valuing IPOs is all about what Wall Street types refer to as comps. Limelight Networks (LLNW), for example, went public largely by using competitor Akamai (AKAM) as a comp. In NetSuite’s case, however, the comps don’t look that great.