Gaze Into the Crystal Ball

 | Jan 16, 2013 | 10:00 AM EST  | Comments
  • Comment
  • Print Print
  • Print

As I did a year ago, I happen to be attending an investor conference that's highlighting a number of interesting private companies. Of course, privates are not actionable today, but the best way to figure out what is coming down the pike -- both in the economy in general and as a public stock investor -- is to listen to presentations by private companies. Not only can you learn about new trends in technology, medical devices or consumer products, you can sometimes get good intelligence from comparisons to your public-stock holdings.

In the tradition of good investors who always scan far and wide to understand their world, here are a few companies that caught my attention.

Koko Fitness is leveraging the capabilities of high technology to improve personal health. The company has developed software that acts as a virtual trainer, designing, monitoring and adjusting a strength and cardio-based workout routine to improve lean muscle mass. (More lean muscle mass improves your metabolism, helping weight loss.)

The software is built into the exercise equipment manufactured by the company. Koko Fitness jump-started the business by franchising health clubs called Koko Fitclubs, but future growth will be in company-owned units and atypical locations such as corporate gyms and hotels. The company is five years old, and it grew from just five units in 2009 to 130 in 2012 -- an impressive growth rate. The company envisions up to 2,000 units in the U.S. Unit economics are very attractive, with mature run rate revenue of around $380,000 and EBITDA margins around 35%.

Yurbuds is revolutionizing the earphone market for athletes by offering ergonomically designed earphones that will stay tightly but comfortably lodged in your ear despite motion, sweat ... you name it. The earphones are protected by patents, and the company is expanding its distribution rapidly. The earphones are now carried in more than 12,000 retail locations, including major chains such as Wal-Mart, Best Buy and even the Apple Store. Yurbuds did $24 million in revenue in 2012, up from $10 million in 2011, and it sees growth to near $50 million this year as distribution expands to 19,000 "doors" this year.

Home-Made Pizza is improving the category pioneered by Papa Murphy's, bringing a very high-quality product to the take-and-bake segment. Home-Made is still small, with only 23 units in the Chicago area, so there is significant room for growth. Take-and-bake meets that need for people who want something better than grocery store frozen pizza but aren't in the mood for the time and cost of going out. Papa Murphy established the market, but now the issue is premium product. Home-Made is pioneering this approach, and it could have room for years of growth in Chicago alone, never mind other geographies.

Columnist Conversations

Apple was off $6.95 (1.31%) in regular trading but is up over $37 (~7%) in the after markets, after announcing...
You're likely aware of next week's Fed meeting, but we want to remind you that the equity markets have a very ...
Market finally pulling back a bit after six straight days of gains. Small caps are behaving worse than their ...
IBM
IBM is an action alerts plus.com name and I think that it represents great value versus where it will be next ...

BEST IDEAS

REAL MONEY'S BEST IDEAS

Columnist Tweets

BROKERAGE PARTNERS

Except as otherwise indicated, quotes are delayed. Quotes delayed at least 20 minutes for all exchanges. Market Data provided by Interactive Data. Company fundamental data provided by Morningstar. Earnings and ratings provided by Zacks. Mutual fund data provided by Valueline. ETF data provided by Lipper. Powered and implemented by Interactive Data Managed Solutions.


TheStreet Ratings updates stock ratings daily. However, if no rating change occurs, the data on this page does not update. The data does update after 90 days if no rating change occurs within that time period.

IDC calculates the Market Cap for the basic symbol to include common shares only. Year-to-date mutual fund returns are calculated on a monthly basis by Value Line and posted mid-month.