Tech IPOs need to take the summer off

In the tech IPO market, as with most trends, it's better to be early than late. That's not always the case, of course, but typically the first few startups that emerge from a prolonged pause for new offerings do so with a 'bankable' story for Wall Street. It's as if they are going public out of desire, rather than necessity. By the end of the cycle, however, the motivations for IPOs don't often reflect that same confidence, a fact that investors tend to sniff out and discount accordingly.

As we ease into a summer break for new issues, it's worth noting that we have certainly seen that cycle in the IPO market so far this year. By and large, the handful of enterprise-focused startups that have been first to (public) market in 2017 have raised more capital, created more market value and rewarded shareholders more than the companies that have followed. MuleSoft, Alteryx and Okta all emerged onto Wall Street with solid offerings in the spring, representing the first enterprise tech IPOs following last November's US election. (New offerings had been on hold as investors assessed the impact of the unexpected election results on their existing portfolio of companies before placing more speculative bets on IPOs.)

On the other side, the companies that have emerged from the pipeline more recently haven't found Wall Street to be such a welcoming place. The most recent tech offerings – storage startup Tintri and online meal delivery vendor Blue Apron – both cut the pricing of their IPOs, but even that hasn't been enough. (The discount for Tintri was particularly sharp, leaving the company, which had raised $260m in the private market, with just $60m in proceeds from public-market investors. Built on some $320m in total funding, Tintri currently has a market value of slightly more than $200m.)

The valuation declines for both companies have continued uninterrupted on the stock market, leaving Blue Apron and Tintri underwater from their IPO prices, never mind the much higher valuations they received as private entities. In contrast, MuleSoft and Okta are both roughly twice as valuable as they were when they last received funding as private companies. For the tech IPO market to get back on track in the second half of 2017, it might be well-served to take the summer off and look to restart in the fall, rather than dragging out the current cycle.

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Brenon Daly

Research Director, Financials

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