Forbes.com, February 4, 2005
Is Answers.com the Next Google?

Could the next Google (Nasdaq: GOOG) be found in Jerusalem, Israel?

When GuruNet (AMEX: GRU) went public in October, its initial public offering (IPO) generated little excitement. The company sold 2.35 million shares at $5.00 each and closed that day nine cents higher. Two trading days later, the stock hit $4.40 -- talk about unloved!

But, consider this. Are you tired of search products that return a long list of websites that may or may not be related to the query term? GuruNet's search engine avoids the typical hyperlink list with narrative responses -- it even provides tabs for other related information that comes formatted as charts, graphs, and maps.

Users must download the company's software and be using a Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Windows or Apple (Nasdaq: AAPL) OS/X operating system. When working in an email, spreadsheet, word processor, database, or other application, a user can "alt-click" on a word or phrase, and the company's "answer engine" will access the company's online library and display the relevant information.

Investor interest in the stock started to build after the announcement in January that the company had released its Answers.com product. GuruNet would now generate its revenue from ads placed alongside its topic entries rather than from the subscription fees it had charged for its premium content.

Investor response has sent the stock off on a Taser-like (Nasdaq: TASR) rise. Today, the stock is up 25% to a 52-week high -- without any company news.

Investors would be wise to go back to the IPO prospectus and read through the risks this company faces. One significant one is that of IPO funding. While it is adequate for the next 12 months, the company is going to be producing operating losses. More funding, and probably share dilution, is coming. Oh, and the company has more debt than cash. Yikes.

The company's content is licensed from year to year. That's hardly comforting when it is the content, as well as the search, that counts.

Why is GuruNet soaring? Investors may be looking at Google's $55.6 billion market capitalization and thinking that GuruNet's Lilliputian $93 million capitalization leaves a lot of room for growth. Maybe, but Answers.com has just been released, and its future, and the company's too, are far from certain.

GuruNet is a speculation. Investors interested in the stock should first download Answers.com and determine themselves if the product is something that could win mass appeal -- and then make an investment decision.

Fool contributor W.D. Crotty does not own stock in any of the companies mentioned.

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