By Michael Kanellos
Zipcar--no description needed--is having the kind of IPO that VCs have hoped to see in green for years.
The company raised $174.3 million in its stock offering yesterday, more than the $75 million it sought last year. It then issued stock for public trading at $18 a share, higher than the $14 to $16 range anticipated earlier. The stock has been at $31.50 but now is resting between $28 and $29.
Despite the carping about how green companies need lots of capital and the inane comparisons to Google and Groupon, green technology companies have actually done OK when it comes to IPOs.
Tesla Motors (TSLA), Molycorp (MCP), Amyris (AMRS) and Gevo (GEVO) have all raised substantial amounts of money and seen their stocks climb in the aftermarket. Some, though, have benefitted from unusual circumstances. Molycorp went out at $13 and dropped to $12. After the Chinese government clamped down on rare earth mineral exports, the stock zoomed to over $50.
All of these companies are also losing money.
Zipcar has been losing money too-$65 million since it started-- but it does have a few things going for it that bode well for the future. First, it has a brand. Second, consumers seem to like it: Zipcar touts over 500,000 subscribers. Revenue came to over $186 million last year.
Three, it does have competitive barriers. It's not easy building a fleet of short-term, on-demand rental cars. It takes money, software, real estate and planning.
Fourth, it may be hard to displace through crowdsourcing. Some startups like RelayRides want to create services in which car owners loan out their cars for on-demand transportation. Execs who've worked at on-demand companies tell me these cars get trashed. The cleaning budget is huge. The cars can go out six times a day.
Finally, Zipcar fits into one of the green megatrends that ownership is becoming passe. Consumers can get solar panels on their home, but pay for them as a service. Skyline Innovations gives businesses new hot water heaters: you don't own them, but pay for water as a service. Interface wants to give you carpet as a service and not pass the title to the consumer. LED light bulbs will be "sold" as a lease but you will technically not buy them.
Moving toward a goods-as-service economy will take work. IRS regulations will have to be redrawn. Financial companies will have to become comfortable with issuing credit to companies who are going to lease air conditioners, rental cars and light bulbs. But momentum is building.