Worst Year For Tech IPOs Since 2009

With just 28 technology companies entering the U.S. public markets, 2015 was the worst year for IPOs since 2009, according to Dealogic. This compares to 62 last year and 48 the year before, with 131 “unicorns” opting to remain private longer.

“We haven’t seen so few tech IPOs since the 2008-09 U.S. financial crisis,” notes Kathleen Smith, principal at IPO ETF Manager, Renaissance Capital. “Biotech has taken over where tech left off.”

The performance of the tech IPOs has also been subpar. Half of the tech companies that have gone public this year are trading below their IPO price, including Etsy which fell 41%. And both Box and Square, went public at market caps that were beneath the valuation of their last private rounds.

Often seen as a bellwether for upcoming IPOs, investors will be watching this year’s struggling tech stocks as an indication of things to come.

Nelson Griggs, EVP of Global Listing Services at the Nasdaq, spoke of a “shift” in investor sentiment this year. “They were looking for more bottom-line profits than just the revenue growth.”

Companies which had strong fundamentals, like Atlassian, were able to hit the ground running. Fitbit is up 56% since its June IPO and GoDaddy, which is on the verge of profitability, has risen 68%.

The largest tech IPO of the year was First Data, which raised $2.8 billion. The total volume of all the tech IPOs was $9.4 billion.

Atlassian listed on the Nasdaq, as did Etsy, and Match.com. According to Dealogic, the exchange held half of the U.S. tech IPOs. The New York Stock Exchange had the other half, including Fitbit, First Data, Box and Square.

Amongst venture firms, PitchBook data shows that Bessemer and Sapphire Ventures led the pack, with Bessemer backing Box, Mindbody, Instructure and Shopify. Sapphire Ventures also had four tech IPOs with Fitbit, Square, Apigee and Box. Insight Venture Partners, Glynn Capital Management and Tiger Global Management each had three tech companies go public in the U.S.

The United States IPO market is hardly alone in experiencing market chop. As a recent report highlighted, a number of IPOs from European tech companies were announced, only to be withheld. That list includes Deezer, and HelloFresh. Putting an IPO back into its box is never a strong signal, and generally indicates either a weak market, or weak fundamentals. Or both.

TechCrunch highlights this fact to make it plain that the issues that the United States IPO market is currently enduring are hardly exclusive — weakness is as similar here as it is across the pond.

According to a Fortune report, that is true despite the fact that European startups that do initiate a public offering actually outperform the United States-based counterparts. If you do better, and still can’t get out of the gate, the issues at hand are not small.

The concept was recently stated by Sonali de Rycker of Accel Partners, at TechCrunch Disrupt London. When de Rycker was asked about the European IPO markets by our own Katie Roof, the venture capitalist had this to say, after noting that there are several distinct IPO markets inside the Eurozone:

[…] I would say that the markets in Europe, the IPO window is probably slightly less open than what we are experiencing in the US, but again, the capital markets are fungible, the investors are global…

[…] in general, I think that the dynamics, that are sort of circling around IPOs in the US, are also impacting Europe.

[…] It’s a younger cohort, in Europe. […] So far the European markets have been pretty stable and solid in terms of the companies that have gone public — probably slightly less volatile than the US, but I think that this movie is still being played out. But, we are excited about the companies that are being built here.

Her comments mirror our own analysis. Things are tough out there.

But with many companies in the pipeline, it is likely that we will see a good amount of tech IPOs next year.

Anand Sanwal, CEO of CB Insights, predicts that Cloudera and Dropbox will finally make it through.

“2016 may see 2 types of companies go public,” said Sanwal. “One are the good companies with solid fundamentals. The other set of companies are those that get pushed into going public because the private markets close up on them.”

Griggs said that he expects security, storage and software companies to list. “The first quarter looks relatively strong for deals coming out,” but “the year of the unicorn might be more like 2017.”