In an article yesterday on the initial public offering market, The Wall Street Journal reported that companies are increasingly staging IPOs even though they're not yet profitable. Examples cited include Riverbed (Nasdaq: RVBD ) , Isilon (Nasdaq: ISLN ) , and, more recently, Clearwire (Nasdaq: CLWR ) .
The trend goes beyond just a few high-profile examples. In the first quarter of 2006, only 25% of the companies that went public were unprofitable. By the fourth quarter of last year, that figure had jumped to almost 50%, and in the first quarter of 2007, the number has risen to 62%.
This newfound aggressiveness owes partly to investors' fading memory of the dot-com craze of the late 1990s, and to their growing willingness to pay more for the prospect of fast growth.
Though I'm not advising you to jump on the bandwagon and start investing willy-nilly in unprofitable IPOs, one company could ulimately profit from this trend: Motley Fool Rule Breakers recommendation Harris & Harris (Nasdaq: TINY ) .
As a publicly traded venture capital firm, the company has most of its money invested in small private nanotech start-ups, including Molecular Imprint, Nantero, and Nanosys (among many others). And while I have no indication that any of these companies are, in fact, planning to go public, today's more risk-tolerant environment bodes well for the prospect that they might.
Molecular Imprints is already working with Motorola (NYSE: MOT ) and KLA-Tencor (NYSE: KLAC ) ; Nantero is believed to be supplying its technology to On Semiconductor; and Nanosys is in a partnership with Intel (Nasdaq: INTC ) . Such activity suggests that these companies have the potential for the type of growth that investors now appear willing to buy at a premium. If you agree, an investment in Harris & Harris might be a smart way to profit from this new trend.
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Fool contributor Jack Uldrich is the author of a few little books on nanotechnology. (Get it?) He owns stock in Harris & Harris and Intel. Intel is an Inside Value pick. The Fool has a strict disclosure policy.