In HubSpot IPO, it’s the company and the company it keeps

by Brenon Daly

Wall Street typically doesn’t have the chance to learn too much about the companies that come public before the actual IPO. Certainly, the debutants don’t come with the track record of businesses that have lived in institutional investor portfolios for quarters on end. To alleviate some of that uncertainty, which is corrosive to any investment, a key selling point for some IPOs isn’t so much the company, but the company that it keeps.

Consider the case of HubSpot. (Subscribers: See our earlier preview of the HubSpot IPO .) The marketing automation (MA) vendor hit the NYSE on Thursday, creating more than $900m of market value. (The company priced its 5.75-million-share offering at an above-range $25 each, with shares ticking to $30 after the IPO.) HubSpot’s initial valuation works out to roughly 10 times trailing revenue, which is among the richest valuations for MA providers. In fact, it almost exactly matches the current trading valuation for MA high-flier Marketo.

While HubSpot is lumped in with Marketo, the two companies aren’t direct head-to-head rivals. They hawk their wares to very different customers, with HubSpot focusing solidly on the midmarket while Marketo targets bigger businesses. That shows up clearly in the fact that HubSpot has more than three times as many customers as Marketo, but generates roughly one-quarter the revenue of the larger – and faster-growing – MA vendor. (HubSpot has more than 11,600 customers, while Marketo has 3,300 or so.)

Undoubtedly, HubSpot is enjoying a bit of a boost by getting compared with an upmarket vendor. It wouldn’t find such bullishness if it went the opposite way, selling its marketing suite to small businesses. The public market proxy for that market is Constant Contact, which has had a choppy run on Wall Street and trades at a sharp discount to either Marketo or HubSpot.

Constant Contact sells to very small businesses. Nearly two-thirds of its roughly 600,000 customers have less than 25 employees. Still, it has built a sizeable business selling to corner stores, freelancers and other small operations. (Constant Contact will put up more revenue this year than Marketo and HubSpot combined.) What the marketing platform supplier hasn’t done so successfully is market its story to Wall Street. Constant Contact trades at about 3x trailing sales, just one-third the valuation of upmarket vendors HubSpot and Marketo.

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