, the e-commerce market-research company best-known for its online-brokerage ratings, said on Thursday that it would join some of the companies it rates at the public altar.
The move comes at a time when Gomez's largest customers -- the brokers -- have just reported a slew of earnings that show record customer and trading growth. But Gomez, which lost $13.5 million in the nine months ended Dec. 31, on revenue of $3.2 million, may come to market at a tough time. The stock market has been in turmoil, which has created uncertainty about the strength of the
initial public offering market.
Meanwhile, there are plenty of companies trying to get into the public markets. Some 327 issues are in the pipeline, says Randall Roth, a senior analyst with
Renaissance Capital's IPO Plus Aftermarket
fund. All this supply raises questions about how many companies actually will make it to the public markets and about what may happen to the stocks if they do get there.
"Right now, it's probably a market which is still trying to find whether it's going to be up or down," Roth says. "We don't know whether this is a rally or a sucker's rally. I think we'll have more confidence in the next couple of weeks, when we see how well the market reacts to possible adverse circumstances," such as interest-rate increases.
The date of the public offering and the amount to be raised weren't included in the filing with the
Securities and Exchange Commission
Gomez declined to comment on the timing of the offering. In the filing, Gomez, based in Lincoln, Mass., lists retaining and attracting customers, increasing traffic to its Web sites, responding to competitors, and the company's limited track record among its pages of risk factors.
Gomez was started in 1997 by Julio Gomez, now 40, and Alex Stein, 39, one-time consultants for competitor
. As the online trading business grew, Gomez was increasingly cited in major news publications, and the scorecard rating the online brokers became a respected industry gauge. Since then, Gomez ratings have grown to include 24 e-commerce sectors. It derives revenue both from its Web sites,
, which generates leads for its customers, and
, which generates subscription, or service-based income.
Gomez's core business though, remains the online brokers, according to the filing. Some of its top 20 clients are
, a unit of
Online brokers, and other customers, pay Gomez for leads on customers, market data and analysis tools. The company also sells detailed information on its ratings to the brokers as well as tools to analyze how their Web site is performing.
The company's largest shareholder prior to the offering is Philadelphia-based
Ashton Technology Group
, which owns a 29% stake in the company. Julio Gomez, meanwhile, has a 14% stake, while Stein, another much-quoted insider, holds 8%.
HarbourVest Partners VI-Direct Fund
Softven No.2 Investment Enterprise Partnership
combined own about 25%.
is the lead underwriter, with
U.S. Bancorp Piper Jaffray
, part of the
family, aiding the effort.
Gomez plans to use the