On Friday, ON24 quietly put out a press release announcing its SEC registration to make an Initial Public Offering. At this point, no date or offer price is set, although the total amount to be raised is specified in the registration document as one hundred million dollars.
ON24 may not be as well known to the rank and file end user, as the company doesn’t compete in the peer-to-peer “low cost, high volume” online meeting space against products like Zoom, GoToMeeting, and Microsoft Teams. ON24 is all about large audience structured web events (they go back and forth from year to year on whether they offer a webcasting or webinar platform).
I have been watching their marketing and positioning over the last year with some amusement. It feels like they vacillate between wanting to play up the webinar side of things and wanting to downplay it in favor of a larger and more nebulous positioning as an enabler of “digital experiences that convert customer engagement into revenue.” That’s a higher value pitch, but can be harder for prospects to get their heads around.
Way, way back in April of 2010 I wrote a blog post expressing excitement about the new user interface ON24 was introducing at that time. I said it represented a “quantum leap in user configurability and control.” I remain enthusiastic about the ON24 attendee experience in web events and I’m surprised that more vendors haven’t tried to emulate the flexibility of a completely window-oriented GUI where each attendee can open, close, move, and resize content panels just as they do in day to day operations on their computer.
ON24 has held out against the tide of transparent pricing over the years. If you are interested in licensing their product or products, you need to go old school… You contact a sales representative who talks to you about your needs and provides a customized pricing quote. They really aren’t interested in dealing with one-off events or Mom-and-Pop businesses. Their high-touch sales and support model is designed for large enterprises that can commit to producing numerous events on an annual basis.
If I recall the company’s history correctly, early emphasis was on investor relations calls and corporate communications requirements. They made a push into the publishing vertical for a while as well. Naturally, they can handle any type of application that needs a good webcast/webinar platform (I used it on a series of professional training lectures for accountants). But the current positioning is very strongly marketing related, which lets them push their bundle of associated products and services designed to support customer acquisition, content management, and revenue generation.
This is not the first time ON24 has looked at the public option. I found an article from 2012 indicating that the company seemed to be positioning itself for an IPO that never materialized. Obviously, the current environment feels right for potentially riding the wave of investor euphoria for virtual communications. Investors who missed the opportunity to ride Zoom stock from an offering price around $60 to a high of $560 might well try to cash in on another IPO in the space (even though the two companies, products, and use cases are dissimilar). But that enthusiasm has to be tempered by the fear that virtual growth might slow down with a successful COVID vaccine and a return to more travel and in-person experiences. Zoom itself has been on a steady decline since that high price was reached last October.
Still, with BrightTALK getting purchased by TechTarget just before Christmas, there aren’t many of the old independent webinar vendors left to invest in. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a good opening gain for ON24. I should think they will try to get the IPO out to the market as soon as they can. Momentum is everything right now. I wish them well!
(Disclaimer/Disclosure: I have no financial interest or investment in ON24 or its competitors. This article represents my personal opinions and is not based on any interviews or communications with executives, employees, or representatives of ON24.)