Welcome back to Baby Breakerdom! This week's quest to uncover budding Rule Breakers finds more cash for specialists and me being right for a change.
First up this week is HomeAway, a Web-based marketplace for vacation rentals. Actually, it's trying to be the market for vacation rentals online. As such, the firm closed $160 million in new financing on Monday, which the company touted as a 2006 record in its press release announcing the deal.
Much of that money was immediately put to work via the acquisition of competitor VRBO.com, which, quaintly, stands for "vacation rental by owner." With the deal, HomeAway reports that it will have 130,000 online listings covering 100 countries. Each listing costs $300 per year, the Associated Press reports.
But does scale matter in this business? Big investors seem to think so. Five separate venture capitalists were involved in funding the deal, including HomeAway's hometown financier, Austin Ventures of Austin, Texas. Partner Phil Siegel recently told the AP that his firm backed the deal because there's a "huge amount of untapped potential."
He could be right. Forrester Research (Nasdaq: FORR ) , which specializes in tracking emerging industries, is so bullish about the sector that analyst Henry Harteveldt told the AP that online travel will generate $74 billion in sales this year, with vacation rentals earning a growing portion of that total.
Color me unsurprised. Some of our more interesting winners in Motley Fool Rule Breakers and elsewhere are Web specialists. Consider Chinese search specialist Baidu.com (Nasdaq: BIDU ) , which is up 29% since joining the portfolio. And what about online bridal helper The Knot (Nasdaq: KNOT ) , which has more than doubled? Each firm does what it does better than anyone else. If HomeAway manages to build a similar rep, look out above.
Next, it seems I'm not the only one who believes there is way too much money in the private equity market. At least two superior investors agree with me: Roger McNamee of Elevation Partners and Ram Shriram, a well-known angel investor who's made Forbes' "Midas Touch" list for his stellar tech picks, including funding Google (Nasdaq: GOOG ) early.
VentureWire says the pair were together at last week's Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco, and both told the audience of entrepreneurs not to expect YouTube-sized returns. McNamee's caution was telling: "If you have a really good idea and a great team you can probably ... raise a lot of money. But don't equate raising money with success."
Shriram went on to say he'd prefer to see start-ups that are "scrappy and frugal and on a diet of Ramen noodles." Me, too. Why? Because I'm afraid of seeing too many Faker Breakers come public early just because VCs have put too much money to work.
So, please, if you're going to invest in recent IPOs like Acme Packet (Nasdaq: APKT ) and Vonage (NYSE: VG ) , stay alert. Watch for both massive sales growth and margin expansion. Seek high returns on equity and capital. And be sure that management remains invested and isn't using the offering as stuffing for a golden parachute. Otherwise, your portfolio may be the one falling to the earth.
That's all for now. See you back here next week when we continue the quest to find the next Wal-Mart.
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Fool contributorTim Beyers, ranked 1,131 out of 13,392 inMotley Fool CAPS, didn't own shares in any of the companies mentioned in this story at the time of publication. Get the skinny on all the stocks he owns by checking Tim's Foolprofile. The Motley Fool'sdisclosure policyis a rebel on Wall Street.