You couldn't write a more interesting script than one about Elio Motors (ELIO), which recently became the market's first crowdfunded initial public offering. The stock soared by as much as 400% in its first few trading days and now has around a $1 billion market capitalization.
Elio's three-wheeled, two-seat tandem vehicle -- which looks more like an airplane's fuselage than a car -- is a sight to behold. So is its proposed $6,800 base price and fuel efficiency of up to 84 miles per gallon.
The vehicle features a 55-horsepower three-cylinder engine that tops out above 100 miles per hour and goes from 0 mph to 60 mph in 9.6 seconds. Plans call for building the car at a former General Motors Hummer facility in Shreveport, La., with shipments expected to begin in the fourth quarter.
But what's really unique about Elio is that its IPO was done via crowdfunding platform StartEngine.com. Investors used the site to reserve a minimum of 50 ELIO shares at $12 apiece.
Crowdfunding could represent the next great source of IPO money for smaller companies. Thanks to the 2012 Jump Start Our Business Start-Up Act (or "JOBS Act"), small businesses and unaccredited investors who want a piece of the IPO pie can now get one via crowdfunding.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission allows private companies to raise as much as $50 million from non-accredited investors via the Regulation A+ process. Elio was one of the first companies to apply to do so.
I stumbled on to StartEngine a few months ago after reading about Elio and becoming intrigued by the product and its price. I applied for some shares and got a handful, making me one of more than 6,000 investors who bought in and helped the company raise an estimated $17 million.
The IPO was somewhat reminiscent of the 1995 public offering from Boston Beer (SAM), where prospective investors could apply to buy 33 shares via applications attached to six packs.
As for Elio, I'm excited about the product even though the firm has its critics. But I can't get excited about the stock's early meteoric rise, as:
- The shares trade over the counter on the OTCQX market.
- Trading volume has been extremely light, and there's very little liquidity at this point. For example, ELIO fell some 33% to $40 yesterday on volume of just 2,837 shares.
- Volatility has been massive, with ELIO hitting $75 intraday a few days ago before closing at $60 on Monday, $40 yesterday and trading down to around $24 today.
- For a company with a $1 billion market cap, Elio only has a small float of just 1.41 million shares out of a total 26.5 million shares outstanding.
Whether Elio's business becomes successful remains to be seen. It's said to have 50,000 reservations for vehicle purchases, with incentives for putting down non-refundable deposits. However, the company still needs to deliver its vehicles, and production delays would be costly given all of the hype surrounding the firm.
If Elio succeeds, that would bode well for the concept of IPO crowdfunding, opening up new opportunities for both small companies and small investors who've been kept out of the IPO market. So, all eyes will be on this stock.
Now if I could only take a test drive!