As Fitbit went public Thursday, achieving an eye-popping 50 percent jump in the value of its shares, which earlier priced at $20 each, it hauled in more than $700 million for the company and its early investors.
The IPO, one of the biggest this year, also pushes the company’s value way up, almost doubling earlier estimates, to nearly $7 billion, and cementing its lead in the $20 billion tech wearables market.
So what does the company have going for it that others don't? First of all, hardware companies are a compelling story to investors these days. Inc. 5000 company GoPro had a similar lift off, with its stock increasing nearly 100 percent in its first week of trading. And like the high-definition camera maker, Fitbit has a software strategy it intends to grow, particularly in the business to business space.
“Fitbit and GoPro over last six months show the public markets' interest in hardware companies, which define a category with broad consumer appeal and have a potential to be a software layer,” says Ross Fubini, partner at Canaan Partners in Menlo Park, California.
In recent years, Fitbit--co-founded by James Park, the company's chief executive, and chief technology officer Eric Friedman in 2007--has also landed large corporate partnerships with health insurance companies and wellness programs at major corporations to make its product the go-to device for such offerings. Fitbit currently counts 10 million active users on its data platform, and it sold 11 million devices in 2014.
Fitbit’s filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission in May points to its desire to grow in business to business partnerships, which is likely to include an enhanced software and a data platform for its products:
We believe that as healthcare costs continue to rise and as employers continue to seek ways to keep their employees active, engaged, and productive, more employers will implement or enhance their corporate wellness programs. In order to grow our corporate wellness presence, we intend to enhance our corporate wellness offering as well as expand our sales team focused on this market.
Again, Fitbit story is reminiscent of GoPro venturing into virtual reality and video broadcast with Google, whose Cardboard project aims to bring virtual reality to its users.
And, like GoPro, which announced in May it will start building consumer drones, look for Fitbit to keep rolling out new products. Those are likely to go head to head with products from large consumer brands like Nike and Microsoft, as well as low-cost foreign-made products, such as Huawei's TalkBand.
“I'd look for growth in consumer demand…new hardware to maintain leadership, and software supporting the ecosystem,” Fubini says.