Exits lead up and down for General Catalyst

Contact: Brenon Daly

Talk about a mixed pair of exits. Venture firm General Catalyst Partners is faced with an unusual situation of the sale of one portfolio company almost undoubtedly slashing the valuation of another portfolio company that just filed for an IPO. The trade sale could even derail the offering, although that’s probably not likely.

The specifics: Boston-based General Catalyst (and more specifically, partner Joel Cutler) has backed both ITA Software, a maker of flight search tools, and Kayak.com, an online travel site. In July, ITA agreed to a $700m sale to Google (although the close of the deal has been hung up by concerns over the search giant potentially having too much influence in the flight search market). And then just this week, Kayak.com put in its paperwork to go public. General Catalyst is the single largest owner of Kayak.com, holding about 30% of the equity.

The rub in the two exits comes because Kayak.com relies heavily on ITA for sending business its way. (According to the prospectus, ITA has accounted for 42% of airfare query results so far this year.) Of course, Google would have every reason not to continue to send that search traffic to Kayak.com if the ITA purchase goes through. So for General Catalyst, it would be nice to pocket the proceeds from a $700m sale of ITA, but probably not if it comes at the cost of Kayak.com’s valuation.