Many thought we'd never again see the absurd heights of the Internet investing bubble, when unproven companies commanded P/Es in the thousands. But less than a decade later, we may be jumping on the roller coaster again with nanotechnology.
This week, Nanosys will file its IPO on the Nasdaq exchange with an anticipated ticker symbol of NNSS and opening price of between $15 and $17. That would give it a price to sales ratio of more than 120, and forget about a P/E -- it has lost more than $20 million since 2001.
Like the unproven dot-coms, Nanosys doesn't have any products and not much in the way of real assets. Its business model is to design nano solutions for clients incorporating its own patented nanostructures, offering solutions across several industries -- from life and physical sciences to information technology and communications to renewable energy and defense. The company has 35 employees and reported trailing 12 months revenues of about $3 million.
Unlike those old dot-coms, though, Nanosys has an impressive team of nano scientists, headed by Larry Bock, one of the founders, as well as an equally impressive team of directors, including former Hewlett-Packard (NYSE: HPQ ) CEO John A. Young. The scientists have amassed a huge IP portfolio with more than 250 patents, awarded or pending, on an array of nano applications. The commercial team has working partnerships with a blue-chip roster of companies, including Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) , Matsushita (NYSE: MC ) , DuPont (NYSE: DD ) , and In-Q-Tel, the CIA venture capital company. (Only in America can a "secret" intelligence agency have a private venture capital company.)
So what are nano solutions worth to a client? And can other companies with a sole focus on a single application beat Nanosys to the punch?
At this stage, no one knows, not even Nanosys' management. The company's leadership has admitted that its products are years away from commercial reality.
If you decide to jump in after the IPO, you are doing so on faith and hope. So far, Nanosys has done everything right (with the possible exception of an IPO too early in its development). If it continues, Nanosys could become the nanotechnology banner company in the same way AOL (NYSE: TWX ) was for the Internet and Genentech (NYSE: DNA ) was for the biotechnology industry. But there's certainly no guarantee.
Whatdoyou think of Nanosys and its future? Share your views with otherFools on the Nanotechnology discussion board.
Fool contributors Carl Wherrett and John Yelovichdo not own shares of any of the companies mentioned.