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Sept. 6, 2019, 7:40 a.m. EDT

Domo still can’t explain what it actually is, and the stock is getting killed

A year after an IPO that included promises of bigger customers, software company is ditching that path while still struggling to describe its business

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By Therese Poletti, MarketWatch


Domo Inc.
Domo bills itself as a cloud service that lets CEOs run their businesses from their smartphones, using data analytics.

When Domo Inc. went public last year, it was hard to discern what the company actually did, and how executives were going to turn it into a big business.

Slightly more than a year later, Domo /zigman2/quotes/205658425/composite DOMO -2.95%  is showing why that should have scared away investors in the initial public offering. The chief executive is turning away from promises made during the run-up to Domo’s IPO, and still struggles to actually describe the company’s business, even as he promises “to simplify our message.”

/zigman2/quotes/205658425/composite DOMO 15.62, -0.48, -2.95%

Domo investors are paying the price: Worth $1 billion as recently as May, the company’s market cap is headed lower than $500 million after its outlook for the third quarter and the rest of the year fueled a 35% drop in its stock in after-hours trading Thursday afternoon. The company appears to be going through a major pivot in its strategy due to a focus on big enterprise deals that did not pan out, and it admitted that customers and investors still do not completely understand what it does.

“Everyone knows, and you’ve recounted back to us, that our offering in the space has been difficult to explain,” Domo Chief Executive Josh James said. “It’s also been the No. 1 complaint from our reps as the recent round of acquisitions has brought more attention and structure to our space and how people describe it and think about it. It’s created an opportunity to simplify our message.”

But when asked by an analyst to offer that simple message, James talked for several minutes without getting to a concise description. The quick message, he said, is that “everyone is looking for digital transformation,” with some standard promises to visualize and analyze data.

“We’re still refining it and we’ll roll it out,” he said. “And you know, kind of make sure that everyone is aware of it.”

Read more about Domo’s IPO and why it should have been a no

That performance should truly scare investors. As an analyst pointed out, a big message from the company during its IPO roadshow was that it needed to move “up market” to larger enterprise customers. However, in Thursday’s conference call, James said that Domo would pivot much of its sales focus to low-end enterprise customers, a switch that did not seem to sit well with some analysts.

James responded by saying that Domo is spending too much money and time wooing very large companies — those with more than $1 billion in revenue — but that it would continue some of those efforts.

“Right now, we’re going to take a chunk of those reps and have them focus on the lower end of the enterprise space and we’ll still have some out there that are that are out there hunting the big, you know, the really big logos and continuing to do what we’ve been doing,” he said.

See also: Software companies are spending billions on acquisitions, but how long will it last?

As the call went on, the company’s shares continued to fall. Domo executives continued to make excuses, citing the recent acquisitions of Looker by Alphabet Inc.’s /zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite GOOG -0.60%   /zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite GOOGL -0.67%  Google and Tableau by Salesforce.com Inc. /zigman2/quotes/200515854/composite CRM -1.42%  as adding temporary confusion, but saying they also will bring future opportunities in the market for cloud software.

The real problem, though, is that Domo doesn’t seem to know what it is or wants to be — or just can’t communicate that message. A muddled marketing plan and a strategy switch a year after going public are not good signs for the future, and Domo’s future appears as cloudy as it gets.

/zigman2/quotes/205658425/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 15.62
-0.48 -2.95%
Volume: 1.02M
Oct. 18, 2019 4:00p
P/E Ratio
N/A
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$429.49 million
Rev. per Employee
$177,415
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/205453964/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 1,245.49
-7.58 -0.60%
Volume: 1.35M
Oct. 18, 2019 4:00p
P/E Ratio
25.14
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$805.68 billion
Rev. per Employee
$1.39M
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/202490156/composite
US : U.S.: Nasdaq
$ 1,244.41
-8.39 -0.67%
Volume: 1.58M
Oct. 18, 2019 4:00p
P/E Ratio
25.12
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$804.98 billion
Rev. per Employee
$1.39M
loading...
/zigman2/quotes/200515854/composite
US : U.S.: NYSE
$ 144.09
-2.08 -1.42%
Volume: 6.08M
Oct. 18, 2019 6:30p
P/E Ratio
119.82
Dividend Yield
N/A
Market Cap
$112.23 billion
Rev. per Employee
$379,486
loading...

Therese Poletti is a senior columnist for MarketWatch in San Francisco. Follow her on Twitter @tpoletti.

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