David Friend

How Carbonite broke out of the IPO deep-freeze

August 11, 2011: 3:35 PM ET

The online data backup company's CEO David Friend talks about forging ahead with an IPO in a volatile market.

By Alex Konrad, contributor

FORTUNE -- Carbonite, the popular provider of online data backup services, jumped into a volatile market by opening trading today. It decided to forge ahead even after having to lower its proposed IPO by more than a quarter in size, as my Fortune colleague Dan Primack noted yesterday. The unlikely move seems to have paid off -- for now.

In what appears like an alternating day pattern of returns for the market this week, Carbonite's (CARB) stock stayed in the green this morning. It is now hovering around $12 for a return of about 20% off its list price of $10. The four most recent IPOs, meanwhile, were all trading at or below their original listing value: SandRidge Permian Trust (PER) was about even; American Capital Mortgage (MTGE) was less than a dollar below; C&J Energy Services (CJES) was about $3 under, and Horizon Pharma (HZNP) was also less than a dollar below its $9 listing.

This week had originally held the potential to be a milestone for IPOs since the recession began, as I wrote Monday. Standard & Poor's downgrade of U.S. debt took care of that prospect. And as late as six hours before the listing, CEO David Friend didn't know if Carbonite would have the buyers to go through today, according to comments he made on a media conference call this afternoon.

"When we started the road show, all hell broke loose," Friend said. "People who were sympathetic to our story were still sitting in our meetings staring at their Blackberries with grimaces on their faces." By lowering its offering price, the company took in less money than it had initially hoped -- a trend for all three of the IPO survivors of the last two weeks. (SandRidge Permian sold below its proposed price range. American Capital Mortgage, meanwhile, sold less than half the number of shares it had earlier planned.) Friend admitted that the company had considered a possible September IPO and the better returns it could offer.

So why not wait until the market settled down? Friend said that Carbonite viewed the market after Labor Day as potentially just as volatile. Sticking to a position focused on the long term, Friend said he only worries about where the stock sits a year or two from now, not how it will respond to this week's erratic market. The company, which already has over one million customers, wanted the cash from an IPO right away to bankroll "strategic acquisitions" that may lie ahead.

Considering its bumpy road show period and its narrow escape from the IPO demises all around, the tech company founded by two Star Wars fans might have had a bit of The Force with it today. But Carbonite will have to hope that in future weeks, it doesn't look back at a 20% return and wish it had lasted.

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