WR Hambrecht + Co.

The Open source

Headquartered in high-tech heaven San Francisco, WR Hambrecht + Co. uses technology and online auction process to give its clients access to financial markets.  The firm's proprietary OpenIPO auction, patterned after Dutch auctions, is designed to level the playing field in IPOs by allowing individuals and institutional investors alike to place online bids for shares.  In the end, the auction determines the price that everyone pays.  Another Hambrecht technology, OpenBook, takes a similar approach to corporate bonds, providing transparent, real-time price information.  OpenFollowOn is the logical next step, giving investors interactive bidding and real-time pricing for follow-on equity offerings.

Founded in 1998 by William R. Hambrecht, WR Hambrecht + Co. operates on the principle that online technology is the easiest way to create open, fair markets.  By allowing investors and market forces to price IPOs, the argument goes, a true "market price" can be found, with less behind-the-scenes dealing by investment bankers.  The firm serves the technology, health care, financial services, consumer/retail and telecommunications sectors.  It provides a full range of underwriting, advisory, equity research, sales and trading, brokerage and private equity offerings online and off.  In addition to its San Francisco headquarters, Hambrecht has offices in Boston, New York and Philadelphia.

The firm was created after William Hambrecht retired from Hambrecht & Quist, which he co-founded in 1968.  It is backed by American Century, Crimson Ventures, epartners, Fidelity Ventures, Novell, and Park Avenue Equity Capital Partners, LP.

Disrupting the peace

The public relations department at WR Hambrecht & Co. has given the company a strange slogan: "A disruptive investment firm for people who think for themselves."  The word "disruptive" here refers not to a group of young hooligans throwing stones, but to a theory of economics posited by Harvard Business professor Clay Christensen.  Christensen asserts in his books, The Innovators Dilemma and The Innovators Solution, that disruption in the market can be a powerful force for growth.  He goes on to explain that "disruptors" can make waves by targeting new, ignored or over-served clients, creating an entirely new market.  Christensen points to companies such as Kodak, Sears, Sony and McDonald's as examples to back up his theory. 

WR Hambrecht & Co. puts itself in the category of "disruptive" companies due to its pioneering of the OpenIPO auction platform.  The company hosts a forum called "The Disruption Forum," in which the ideas of Bill Hambrecht and Clay Christensen are discussed and elaborated upon by "people who think for themselves."
Friends in high places

For many years, William "Bill" Hambrecht has enjoyed dinners and family get-togethers with his friend Nancy, California Representative Nancy Pelosi, that is.  When Pelosi, a Democrat, was sworn in as the first female Speaker of the House in 2007, the San Francisco Chronicle noted that her contacts in the close-knit San Francisco business community suddenly had a very important friend in Washington.  Bill Hambrecht, who helped take Apple, Adobe, Netscape and Amazon public in the 1990s when he ran Hambrecht & Quist, has been described as one of the most powerful links between Silicon Valley and the Democratic Party.  Besides being a major political donor, Hambrecht has been invited to speak at White House conferences on the new economy.

Getting "disruptive"

In 2009, a New York Times profile of WR Hambrecht + Co. founder William R. Hambrecht showcased the firm's innovation over the years.  Hambrecht expressed surprise at the fact that an auction for OpenIPO "works better on the bigger deals," adding that "as the market gets more efficient working its way down," WR Hambrecht "will get more efficient doing smaller auctions."  Hambrecht also noted that "Goldman Sachs, Credit Suisse and Morgan Stanley aren't interested in $50 million and $100 million deals anymore.  They want to keep the half-a-billion and billion-dollar deals that make them money."

IPOs aren't the only game WR Hambrecht is working to master.  Hambrecht also co-founded and helped give financial backing to the United Football League, which will compete with the National Football League.  Hambrecht told the Times he sees the UFL "as a tremendous opportunity to be very disruptive in the media market."

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WR Hambrecht + Co.


Pier 1, Bay 3
San Francisco, CA 94111
Phone: (415) 551-8600
Fax: (415) 551-8686
www.wrhambrecht.com

STATS


  • Employer Type: Private
  • Chairman & CEO: William R. Hambrecht
  • 2010 Employees: 125

Major Office Locations

  • San Francisco, CA
  • Boston, MA
  • New York, NY
  • Berwyn, PA

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