Google picks on the pipeline

Contact: Brenon Daly

As if the IPO process wasn’t already hard enough, candidates looking to go public have found a new obstacle: Google. For the second time in less than a year, the search giant has swung its considerable market heft against a would-be public company – likely trimming hundreds of millions of dollars in market cap from the IPO aspirants. That from a company with the informal motto of ‘Don’t be evil.’

Most recently, Google introduced Google Voice, an add-on to its Gmail offering that allows for free calls to anywhere in North America. If that sounds vaguely familiar, it’s because Skype has been in that business for about seven years now. On the back of that product, Skype filed its paperwork with the SEC earlier this month to go public, less than a year after being carved out of eBay. In the first half of 2010, Skype reported $406m in revenue, according to its S-1 filing.

And it isn’t like Google just stumbled on the idea of Google Voice as a ‘Skype killer,’ or however it thinks of the offering. From our vantage point, Google has set a deliberate course of M&A to acquire bits of useful technology and engineers for a VoIP offering. The company reached for Global IP Solutions in May after picking up On2 Technologies last year, a deal that required Google to top its initial bid. So Google clearly wanted to be in this market, and was willing to buy its way into it.

This bit of sharp-elbowed competition comes after Google made an even more drastic entrance last November into the turn-by-turn navigation market. Just two days before TeleNav, one of the largest mobile navigation vendors, put in its IPO paperwork, Google announced that it would be offering turn-by-turn directions. Although the service would be available on only a very limited number of devices, Google’s price was hard to beat. (It was free.) Granted, TeleNav has run into trouble (no pun intended) of a different sort since it listed on the Nasdaq. But the company seemed almost destined for difficulties after being born under a bad moon, thanks to Google.