By SARA FISHER
Bill Gross, already by many accounts the world's preeminent e-commerce entrepreneur, is just warming up.
With his Pasadena-based Idealab incubator having spawned two meteoric initial public offerings over the past six months eToys and Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch Gross is preparing to unleash his second wave of e-commerce companies.
And there are several more waves down the line. In fact, Gross has nearly two dozen companies in various stages of development.
"(Gross) is unbelievable. I've been in business all my adult life, and I've never seen anyone so fertile with ideas," said Bob Kavner, Idealab's general partner. "We vet our own ideas, and we choose not to pursue all of them. But if we had the capacity to develop more companies, Bill could easily generate enough solid ideas to overload it."
Among the new wave of Idealab companies now emerging:
? Tickets.com, which recently merged with Advantix Inc., is becoming a major player in online ticket sales and has filed preliminary documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission to go public.
? The search engine company GoTo.com has filed for an IPO, which it expects to bring to market later this month.
? Federated Department Stores recently bought a 20 percent stake in WeddingChannel.com, an online registry and wedding information site.
? E-commerce company Cooking.com just landed $16 million in later-stage funding.
"Working with Bill is a very electric experience," said Jennifer Fonstad, a partner at Silicon Valley venture capital firm Draper Fisher Jurvetson and a board member of several Idealab companies. "He's a catalyst for sparking discussions and drives thinking in new ways. I sincerely believe Bill's a creative genius."
He's certainly becoming a wealthy one. With Idealab being a privately held company, Gross is not required to publicly disclose its finances, his equity stake or those of his partners.
But the two Idealab IPOs provide a glimpse into Gross' mushrooming wealth. Idealab's equity stake in eToys alone is worth about $900 million, based on the stock price late last week, and Gross' personal stake in Ticketmaster Online-CitySearch is worth about $109 million.
In part to further bolster his fortune, Gross last summer took on the additional role of venture capitalist. He teamed up with investment veteran Bill Elkus to launch Idealab Capital Partners, also based in Pasadena. The fund, which closed in February with $105 million in capital commitments, is providing financing to fledgling Internet companies, especially those based in Los Angeles.
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