RealTime IT News

Be Free

At the current rate, if the stock price falls any further, Be Free will really be free for investors. The 52-week range is $2 - $60 7/8; the current stock price is $2-5/8.

Two brothers founded Be Free in the early days of the Web in 1996. Basically, they developed technologies to allow for merchant-branded affiliate programs. In fact, the company's first customer was barnesandnoble.com (in late 1996). Of course, now the company has a slew of customers, such as AOL, IBM, and Yahoo!

Be Free's technology has evolved quickly catering to business-to-consumer and business-to-business channels. For customers, Be Free's solutions are enticing. Essentially, they provide cost-effective customer acquisition - based on pay-for-performance. Yet, customers do not have to deal with the many headaches of managing an affiliate program, such as enrollment and tracking.

In fact, Be Free has cutting-edge technology called BSELECT. This enables personalization of affiliate programs. For example, programs allow for recommendations of products based on prior consumer behavior.

The company is showing traction. In the past quarter, revenues were $5.3 million, which was up from $1.3 million in the same period a year ago. Losses were $4 million. Yes, the burn is high, but the company has targeted profitability by the first quarter of 2002.

Be Free has been diversifying its customer base, adding more brick-and-mortar companies (about one-third of revenues). Customers include IBM, Bertelsmann, 3M, Sprint, and Staples.

Be Free has become a dominant player in the affiliate marketing industry. Actually, according to a Forrester Research study, performance-based marketing is expected to represent 50 percent of online marketing by 2003. Also, assuming there is a wave of mergers & acquisitions next year, Be Free would seem like a good candidate. After all, the company has about $160 million in cash and a market cap of $172 million.