There was much celebration yesterday at Open Table's (NASD:OPEN) successful IPO. In this market, any IPO, especially a tech IPO is cause for celebration, and Open Table shares jumped 50% to more than $31 during its first day of trading after being priced above the initial $16-18 range.
On its merits, Open Table is not that great a story right now. Restaurants are hurting in the current economy and the company lost $1M on revenues of $56 million in 2008, before things got really bad. More than half their revenue stream comes from the flat fees which they charge restaurants, so that should be somewhat predictable, but will certainly take a hit as restaurants shut their doors. The variable revenues, based on individual bookings will be at even greater risk until the market returns.
While Open Table has strong relationships with restaurants, what would make it a much more interesting company would be to reach out to the consumer side. An Open Table acquisition of Yelp would close the loop, allowing users to search reviews, then book their reservation on one system. It could also create new markets for Open Table. Yelp is well-positioned to become a dominant player in local advertising, and Open Table could potentially serve as the intermediary between buyers and sellers in those local markets. Adding user-generated content and social media to Open Table would position it for future growth as it would be embedded into the daily activities of its core audience. Open Table is a web 1.0 survivor; Yelp brings the newness of the web 2.0 environment and business approach and a nearly obsessive focus on the user.
Of course, Open Table and Yelp have been polar opposites when it comes to their corporate culture.
At an estimated valuation of $200 million, Yelp would be worth a third of Open Table, based on its current market cap. But together, the two would be well-positioned to become dominant players in local advertising across a multitude of consumer industries.