There's an alien in my wallet, part II

Tim Mullaney

Obviously, Justin's right about one thing: It's just not soup yet at Alien Technology Corp. But here's where we differ: I'll bet the price of one share that this deal gets pulled or the company gets sold before any IPO happens.

I look for Alien Tech to become the latest proof point of my case that the IPO market, post-boom and post-bust, is a highly rational and only slightly risk-averse beast. I can't recall the last tech company that looked this much like a story stock to get its deal done. (I think Vonage is probably for sale too, which is why I don't agree with Justin's implicit assumption -- J, am I inferring too much? -- that Vonage's filing or Alien Tech's means a lot of risk is back in the market). Maybe Freescale, which wasn't very profitable but was much bigger than Alien Tech. But this company is nowhere near as close to significant profitability as companies such as, VistaPrint and other IPO candidates that have done well.

I know, I know, it's RFID and RFID is sexy. Justin has a point there. (That's why I was going to blog this first, before he got off his duff faster than I got off mine...sniff). But that gets you as far as a private sale. Security software was sexy in 2004 too, but that didn't make Brightmail an IPO: It sold out to Symantec. Online advertising was sexy in 2004, but sold to Time Warner before the deal and Claria held off. All of those were stronger, more profitable companies then than Alien Tech is now. I just don't see anyone in the public venture capital business these days. Not in IT anyway -- maybe in biotech. And accepting that you are in the public VC business is the kind of leap Alien Tech still requires.

Bottom line: Wall Street may be selling this weak stuff, but it doesn't mean much of anyone is buying. In basketball terms, you can drive the lane all you want, but if you ain't a playa your layup is still going to be dispatched into the second row. In this case, judging from the numbers, maybe the third.

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