Google is more than a technology; it's a way of life for millions. That's not to say that investors will shy away from making a buck on the phenomenon.
Last night's buzz was that Google will not only go public early next year but will do so through an online auction. For a revolutionary company, this seems fitting. After all, part of the ethos of Google is openness, which is antithetical to the traditional way IPOs are distributed.
At the extreme, an online auction for the IPO of a red-hot company -- which could be valued at more than $10 billion and raise more than $1 billion -- could be a watershed event in finance.
True, pioneer W.R. Hambrecht & Co., a San Francisco investment bank, auctioned RedEnvelope
Which is all the more curious given how simple an online IPO actually is. If you bid the right price, you get the shares. There are no secret handshakes, no allocations, no sweetheart deals (of course, there is some heavy-duty computer programming on the back-end). Online investors might even view management presentations historically reserved for institutional eyes.
One other advantage is that, at least in theory, a company can raise more money with an auction as supply meets demand. Traditionally, an investment bank comes up with a price -- usually below the perceived fair value-- so as to create a "pop" on the first day of trading (yes, this is one way favored clients and insiders make their money).
Google, on the other hand, will need all the money it can get to fight the mega players in search. Microsoft
It is impossible to predict how this will play out. Perhaps, investors will get overly enthused and take Google shares into the stratosphere. But remember, for all the progress they bring about, revolutions have a tendency to get out of control and bloody. The Google IPO will likely be no exception.
Tom Taulli is the author of six books on investing, including Investing in IPOs (Bloomberg Press), as well as a professor of finance at the USC School of Business (don't worry, he does come out of his ivory tower). You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.