H&Q Conference: Next Stop, iVillage

Investors want to take a closer look at the upcoming IPO. Also, items on Yahoo! and Snap.com and words of widsom from Danny Rimer.
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SNOWBIRD, Utah -- Reporters weren't permitted to attend the presentation by iVillage, the women's community site in the process of going public, at the Hambrecht & Quist planet.wall.street conference Monday. Investors who did attend expressed qualified interest in iVillage, but promised they'd be taking a closer look at the numbers before signing on.

One buy-side analyst said he was intrigued by the company's reach. According to iVillage's prospectus, 2.7 million unique visitors, primarily women, visited the site in December. But the analyst added that he was having a junior analyst back at the office run some numbers to figure out whether traffic to the site had grown organically, or whether it came from acquisitions. "The losses seem huge," he said. The company lost $43.7 million in 1998 on revenue of $15 million, compared to a loss of $21.3 million on revenue of $6 million a year earlier.

Another attendee said it was hard to get a sense of the personality of Candice Carpenter, iVillage's co-founder, co-chairman and CEO, given the constraints of the investor presentation. But he did hazard a guess: sort of a cross between Fifth Avenue and Silicon Alley, he said.

-- George Mannes

Yahoo! Can't Drive 55

A question put to a panel of Web honchos: Can


overpay for an acquisition when Internet stock is used as currency? Or, as H&Q analyst Paul Noglows put it, "If



puts an outrageous valuation on



, then Yahoo! must deserve an outrageous valuation because the acquisition proves what Net companies are worth."

Noglows' notion drew laughs from the audience, but Yahoo! chief (chief Yahoo?) Tim Koogle shot it down. "We look at this on a share basis and whether it's worth the dilution," he said. "We want our acquisitions to be accretive in the near or immediate term on a share basis because we're building a business for the long term. We're a little tougher on the numbers than most people. We like to drive it faster."

Koogle continued, "If you look at


, when we bought that, they had about 100,000 email subscribers. Now, although we haven't released the new numbers, we have well over 10 million. That's just by squirting 411 into Yahoo!'s engine."


Cory Johnson

Another Speed Freak!

"One out of five of our search queries on


are for broadband media," said Ed Sanctis, Snap's chief operating officer. "And MP3 is one of everyone's favorite search queries. So the opportunities for broadband aren't five years away -- they're now."

-- Cory Johnson

Rimer Reason

One of the paradoxes of investor conferences is that people are trying to learn as much as they can about companies in their half-hour presentation time. But it's very easy to get the wrong impression about a company in half an hour.

That was the point made by Danny Rimer, one of H&Q's Internet analysts, in a press briefing Monday. When a reporter commented that the presentation by the community/commerce site



seemed "unconvincing," Rimer responded, "We've been doing this since October '95, and a lot of the presentations have been unconvincing."

Investor presentations made by Internet companies tend to be less polished than those made by traditional companies and other tech companies. "These stories, these companies, are less baked than what you're used to," he said.

A good example of that, he said, was last year's presentation by Yossi Vardi, who came to talk on behalf of his privately held company,


. It was a little strange, Rimer hinted: Vardi came armed with 400 slides to present. But instead of showing them to the audience in any particular order, he asked people to yell out numbers randomly so he could show them that slide.

You probably know the punch line to this story: Mirabilis was acquired by

America Online


soon enough.

"We'll have to see what happens to Xoom in the next 12 months," Rimer said.


George Mannes