Arista Networks (ANET), a next-generation developer of switches and networking software, has shown that the market for tech IPOs is warming up.
The company priced 5.3 million shares at $43 per share, which was above the range of $36 to $40, and ANET finished the day’s trading up 30% at $56.
Why all the excitement? Well, Arista Networks is trying to get a chunk of Cisco’s (CSCO) massive business. Granted, many have tried, but ANET has a decent chance of success.
Perhaps the biggest reason is that the company has an amazing group of founders, which include the following:
- Andy Bechtolsheim: He was one of the masterminds of Sun Microsystems back in 1982. He then went on to start Granite Systems, a developer of high-speed network switches. The company was eventually sold to Cisco (CSCO).
- David Ross Cheriton: Cheriton is a computer science professor at Stanford. He also was a co-founder of Granite Systems and was even one of the original seed investors in Google (GOOG), along with Bechtolsheim.
- Kenneth Duda: From 1999 to 2004, he was the chief technology officer of There, a virtual world. Before this, he was the lead developer in Cisco’s Gigabit System Business.
With Arista Networks, the team has built a technology platform that focuses on helping companies benefit from the cloud. At the core of this is the Extensible Operating System, or EOS, which is a set of network applications and 10/40/100 Gigabit Ethernet switches. The package helps boost performance but also allows for customization, which is incredibly important when deploying cloud apps. There are also extensive tools for workflow automation, network visibility and analytics.
All in all, Arista Networks has built a platform that has met the deep needs of customers. From 2010 to 2014, the customer base spiked from 570 to about 2,500. Some on the roster include biggies like eBay (EBAY), Facebook (FB), Microsoft (MSFT) and Yahoo (YHOO).
Top-line growth has been on fire. From 2010 to 2010, revenues went from $71.7 million to $361.2 million. Better still, Arista Networks was also able to generate GAAP profits along the way. Last year, net income came to $42.5 million.
Moreover, based on a study from Crehan Research, the target market for Arista Networks is expected to go from $6 billion in 2013 to $12 billion by 2017, so the ceiling is a long ways above ANET.
Naturally, there are risk factors.
Now there are some risk factors, of course. Keep in mind that co-founder Cheriton recently filed a lawsuit against Arista Networks for infringement of intellectual property. He’s also the largest stockholder of ANET, with a 22.3% stake. Cheriton says that another company he controls, Optumsoft, has the rights to much of the core technology.
While the dispute adds some murkiness, the fact is that Silicon Valley is a magnet for litigation. In the end, it’s a good bet there will be some type of settlement, which might mean that Cheriton will get more shares in ANET.
Investors should be more concerned with how poorly infrastructure IPOs have done. Cyan (CYNI) and Fusion-io (FIO)? Off 65% each since coming public. Violin Memory (VMEM) is off 59%, and Infoblox (BLOX) is off 40%.
The industry also is subject to new technology disruptions, and that danger has accelerated because of the huge amounts of venture capital flowing into the space. Meanwhile, infrastructure operators face revenue volatility, as large customers commonly delay large purchases.
Lastly, I can’t say it enough — it’s typically a good idea to wait to buy an IPO, but especially after a first big-day gain. When hype subsides, so do inflated prices, and investors typically can get a more realistic valuation.
Find out more in the video below.
Tom Taulli runs the InvestorPlace blog IPO Playbook. He is also the author of High-Profit IPO Strategies, All About Commodities and All About Short Selling. Follow him on Twitter at @ttaulli. As of this writing, he did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.