$4 billion Mozilla IPO… then you wake up

Henry Blodget, a stocks analyst for Silicon Alley Insider, published today an exercise on how the Mozilla Corporation could go public. The theory:

  • With a current profit of $35 – $100 million after tax he values it in the range of $1.5 – $4 billion for an IPO (Initial Public Offering).
  • It could happen this or next year.
  • It would generate a boatload of money. Stock options will be distributed among core contributors with a four years vesting to ensure their continued participation.

Taxes, IPO, stock options, vesting.

Maslow said “If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.”, so Blodget has started banging it like crazy since late December. The question is what is the problem?

I, like Blodget, would like to get rich in a couple of years or so, and a Mozilla IPO looks like a promisory way to get there. At first sight.

The problem is that the moment Mozilla becomes public it will exist for its shareholders benefit and not the web and its users. Not that their interests are diametrically opposed but any intersection less than a 100% could signal the end of Mozilla as we know it.

The main reason is exemplified by Blodget’s naive advise: “[There’s] a lot more where that came from (advertising on the default landing page, for example).” That, of course, is the $52 million in revenue for 2006 announced a few months ago by Mozilla CEO, Mitchell Baker.

Mozilla would have the obligation to take every chance to cash in and Blodget have already envisioned that if Mozilla puts Firefox start page for auction it could make a few millions more. Now that’s talent. What about bookmarks? What about bundling MSN or Yahoo! Messenger, or Flash. What about several home pages!! Man, it’s going to rain money.

Wait a minute. Didn’t AOL just buried Netscape a few days ago? And didn’t it die of the same brilliant plan Blodget and me have just envisioned? Something’s not adding up.

And never will because this is open source. The minute users or developers sense the project is not going the direction they want they will take that little thingy called fork and fork it. The Debian guys have already done this with IceWeasel for much less. But this time, users (you can count me in) would follow.

Brand? Users? Developers? It can all be restored. Four years ago Firefox was nothing so at least we now have an idea on how long it could take.

Anyway, Blodge’s exercise is at least as entertaining as filling “O”s during a meeting, so give him credit for that.

5 thoughts on “$4 billion Mozilla IPO… then you wake up”

  1. Wow, what an amazingly boneheaded idea. 🙂

    I think our little friend really misses the boat on why Mozilla is successful and how it will continue to be successful. I’ve found it refreshing to, for once, not be working at a company that is either publicly traded or trying to advance to the point of an IPO or being acquired. It’s very liberating and allows the Mozilla Corporation and Foundation to both focus on what is important: the Web.

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