My interest was piqued by an article I read today about Semyon Dukach. He took his company, SMTP (formerly EMUmail) public, but without an underwriter.
I’ve been thinking a lot about ways to finance OpenNMS. We have a wonderful track record, a mature product and lovely customers around the world, and I know just what needs to be done to make the company really take off. The problem is that with our current business model (spend less than you earn) it is hard to finance growth as fast as I would like.
But I am not sure our business lends itself well to the VC model, and I keep being haunted by stories of other companies that were done in by that model. I mean, as of September I will have been working on OpenNMS for 10 years – we’re not exactly a start up – and high growth start ups are what VCs want.
That leaves few other options. I could get a loan, but then I’d have to put up my house as collateral and while I am confident of the success of the business, I am risk adverse enough to want to avoid the slim chance of both losing my job and my residence (just for the record, I have used my house as collateral in the past for OpenNMS).
There is both the idea of public and private placement. A public placement, or IPO, is what SMTP did, but it is usually much more involved. That’s why I was so interested in the story.
A private placement is different. There can be no general solicitation, (i.e. you can put up a sign saying “invest here!” or else that would be a public offering) and the only investors can be institutions or “high net worth” individuals. We had a student in one of our classes ask about this, but it just seems a little risky (as in hard to manage and execute).
We’re talking to some folks now about trying to get together with either a Super Angel or a few angels to take OpenNMS to the next level, but the idea of going public while small really appeals to my bootstrap nature.