Goto.com Inc. (Nasdaq: GOTO) shares opened at 27 Friday before close its first day at 22 3/, up about 49 percent from an opening price of $15.
In an interview, Goto.com CEO Jeffrey Brewer said he believes the company's business model has staying power.
Donaldson, Lufkin & Jenrette served as lead underwriter for the 6 million-share offering, which had a price range of $13 to $14 a share.
Goto.com, not affilated with the Disney-Infoseek Go Network, operates like a typical search engine, but advertisers with the highest bid get the top results. For example, a search on "investing" brings back SS Investor as the top result. That advertiser pays Goto.com 50 cents for a click. The cost to the advertiser is clearly marked.
"Our model is catching on with small- and medium-sized businesses that can't afford to pay expensive CPMs," said Brewer. "We see ourselves as a direct marketing vehicle, not a destination."
Brewer had every right to be confident about Goto.com's chances. Brewer, 30, makes $85,000 a year and has 1,586,869 options with an exercise price of 15 cents a share. At the offering price of $15, Brewer's options are worth $23.5 million on paper. Once shares started trading Brewer's net worth almost doubled.
Goto.com in regulatory filings calls itself an "online auction where advertisers bid for introductions to consumers seeking information, services and products."
Although Goto.com said its system creates more relevant searches, it's unclear whether a business model can be built around it.
Among the risks cited by Goto.com are the inability to control revenue. Since advertisers pay only on clickthroughs, Goto.com could have trouble predicting revenue.
Despite the caution in the filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Brewer said Goto.com's revenue stream will become more predictable as the company gains more advertisers.
"Less than 10 percent of our revenue is banner ads and the rest is clickthroughs," he said. "It's scalable and we're selling leads not impressions." Brewer said he expects companies like AltaVista to adopt some of Goto.com's model, but didn't expect AltaVista to be that much of a threat. Other portals are hampered by traditional advertising agreements and the banner ad model, said Brewer.
GoTo.com has an accumulated deficit of $21.5 million since launching in September 1997. GoTo.com expects to incur net losses for the foreseeable future.
For the quarter ending March 31, Goto.com had sales of $1.45 million and a loss of $7.3 million. Sales have increased steadily over each quarter For the year ending Dec. 31 1998, Goto.com had sales of $822,000 and a loss of $14 million.