3 Under-the-Radar IPO Picks for 2012

By Tom Taulli, InvestorPlace Writer

Investors often focus on IPOs by the most cutting-edge companies. After all, wouldn't it be great to find the next Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) or Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN)?

Yet as we've seen this year, these types of whiz-bang companies can be extremely risky. Just look at the post-IPO plunges by Pandora (NYSE: P) and LinkedIn (NYSE: LNKD). Even the profitable Zynga (NASDAQ: ZNGA) saw its stock price fall 10% in its first two days of trading.

>>Related: Zynga IPO gets off to a rough start

Some of the biggest gains by recent IPOs can be found in mundane industries. This has been the case with companies like Starbucks (NASDAQ: SBUX) and Wal-Mart (NYSE: WMT), both of which found ways to innovate long-standing markets.

Are there any IPOs in 2011 that might be "under-the-radar" opportunities? Here are some of my picks:

Mattress Firm

As the name implies, Mattress Firm (NASDAQ: MFRM) is a mattress retailer. This is a prosaic industry, but the margins are high and there is no national operator.

Mattress Firm thinks it can be that dominant national force. Already, the company has 757 stores across 25 states.

Mattress Firm has succeeded on the strength of its own innovations. For example, it has a color system for selecting a mattress -- a customer will try out various options that correspond with individual colors. From there, it is easy to shop for the right design.

>>Related: LinkedIn gets a new rival

Mattress Firm also focuses on achieving the top market share in its geographic locations. This helps build its brand, which often is at a relatively low cost. There also are benefits in shipping logistics.

Mattress Firm's growth has been outstanding, with the company posting 24 consecutive months of positive comparable-store sales growth. For the first half of this year, revenue spiked 41% to $331.8 million and net income was $4.7 million.


Patents have become a critical part of global competitiveness, particularly in industries like smartphones and health care. A big problem is that litigation can be extremely risky and expensive.

But RPX (NASDAQ: RPXC) has a solution. The company buys patents, then sells subscriptions to them to guarantee there will be no litigation over the intellectual property. The network of members include biggies like Cisco (NASDAQ: CSCO), Google (NASDAQ: GOOG), Nokia (NYSE: NOK) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ).

>>Related: Tablet casualties, survivors for 2012

RPX's financials are attractive. In the third quarter, revenue spiked by 53% to $38.4 million and profit came to $7.9 million. The company also has $250 million in the bank. With the cash, the company can continue to buy more patents, which will increase subscription revenues and should lead to more members that come into the network.


Teavana (NYSE: TEA) is trying to become the Starbucks of tea. The company sells more than 100 varieties of premium loose-leaf teas in its 196 locations across 39 states. The company's average transaction size is $36 (part of this is from the company's popular website). Teavana creates a so-called "Heaven of Tea" experience in its retail locations and calls its employees "teaologists."

The tea market in the U.S. is about $5.2 billion and is growing at about a 6% annual clip. Overall consumption is low when compared to the rest of the world, so there should be room for continued growth.

In the latest quarter, Teavana reported a 35% increase in sales to $33.4 million, and comparable-store sales were up 8.5%.

Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog " IPOPlaybook", a site dedicated to the hottest news and rumors about initial public offerings. He is also the author of and "All About Commodities." Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not own a position in any of the aforementioned stocks. Check out InvestorPlace.com's other looks back at 2011 and ahead to 2012 here .

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This commentary comes from an independent investor or market observer as part of TheStreet guest contributor program. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of TheStreet or its management.

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