Are Tech IPOs Coming Too Soon?

It’s a pretty wild question, given the tenor of recent news coverage. Former employees of companies still private, such as Facebook, have been moving to the likes of SecondMarket and SharesPost for some early liquidity. Many CEOs, including Mark Zuckerberg, are said to be showing patience, instead of rushing to ring the opening bell. Yet, this might not be characteristic of the tech sector as a whole. The recent wave of S-1 filings might indicate that something else is amiss.

There have been some high-profile filings this year: Groupon, Zynga and Jive Software are among them. Recently, Bazaarvoice, Brightcove and Angie’s list entered the fray, the last of these a dotcom-era survivor that has waited 16 years for this moment. While more than 20 companies have delayed their IPOs, many more are throwing their hats into the ring.

What’s going on?

Here are a few explanations:

1. Investors want satisfaction: according to, several of the companies filing to go public have taken boatloads of venture capital money (Brightcove alone has picked up more than $100 mn). The money has been tied up long enough, and investors want to book their returns and capitalize new ventures.

2. More money for new funds: venture capital firms that want to raise more money for new VC funds next year will want to show they can deliver exits. By pushing their portfolio companies to do so this year, they can demonstrate that investors won’t have their cash tied up for too long.

3. Market conditions are rough: that’s normally the perspective companies take when canceling an IPO … yet it can work both ways. For some that aren’t ready to go public yet, it seems more attractive to swallow the pill in 2011, since there’s plenty of pessimism about 2012 making the rounds.

4. Lots of hype: hype helped Pandora and LinkedIn. Maybe it will also help Groupon and Zynga? It’s hard to say, but the action in venues like SecondMarket provides some sense that investors are still hungry for internet and social media shares.

And, there’s one that didn’t mention: employees. It’s something I’ve been thinking about lately. Part of the attraction of a startup is equity and exit. We’ve all seen the real value of paper wealth before. If you can’t show an exit, it can be hard to attract top talent now … not to mention to your next venture.

So, believe it or not, there’s still plenty of pressure for tech companies to go public, even in this difficult IPO market. The rush to go public may seem hasty from the outside, but there are good reasons to make the move – at least for investors and employees. The company itself may get banged around a bit, but there are many more stakeholders involved. Some of them, of course, are bound to have competing interests. It’s the nature of the beast.

So, where do you fall on this issue? Is it 1999 all over again? Or, do you think it’s prudent for some of these companies to rush to IPO? Leave a comment to let us know!