Recently, one may have noticed commentator wringing their hands, alternatively, about either a “tech bubble” or a “dearth of tech IPOs” – sometimes, both in the same article.
It is unquestionable, however, that there is now a large number of technology private companies that raise large private funding rounds (often, in excess of $100MM – not to mention Uber, who raises $1BN rounds more often than I shave…) but very few that are poised to go public anytime soon.
My impression is that most folks miss an important point: IPOs are, by and large, a major pain, a huge distraction and “going public” is something that most organizations would rather avoid for as long as they can; even more so, if the core of their business is based on complex technologies that most investors (let alone “the great unwashed”) have trouble even spelling correctly, let alone understanding.
Add to that the vast amount of red tape the US government (in the form of very invasive, and often obtuse, regulation by the Fed, SEC, DFS, and assorted other 3-letter agencies) has heaped on potential IPO candidates; the usually politically-motivated zeal of prosecutors of all stripes in trying to find “criminal intent” when things go wrong – when there may actually be none, beyond maybe a flawed business model; and the huge distraction that an IPO (not to mention, keeping the stock market happy) entails for executives (who should instead focus on growing the business and out-smarting competitors) – and it’s pretty obvious that folks see “going public” as attractive as taking a swim in a Calcutta sewer…
Obviously, the other side of the equation is that, by and large, reaching an “exit event” means that a number of folks (founders, early employees, investors; who all have a great say on organizations’ choices) will get potentially very, very rich.
What most people miss, however, is that these days, technology companies don’t really need the money from the “great unwashed:” they can generate wealth (for the founders) and returns (for the investors – even if usually, only “on paper”) by simply tapping the private equity markets, by raising larger and larger rounds, and never really having to deal with the pesky regulations associated with public markets.
More importantly, by eschewing IPOs, companies don’t have to deal with the “common folk” who, in these days of rampant entitlement and victimhood, are quite happy when the stocks go up (even if they have no clue as to what drives that rise) but will quickly start bawling on social media and demand “punishment” for executives when thing go south (even though they have equally no clue as to why).
And I can already hear the Elizabeth Warrens righteously howling at “inequality” and “privilege” and lamenting the “middle classes” being left behind and not been given the opportunity to participate in the huge amount of wealth creation (and innovation) currently happening in Silicon Valley – conveniently forgetting that this is exactly the “unintended” (but largely predictable, if only they had enough brains to consider them) consequence of the very regulations (and narrative) liberals have been championing (and the Obama administration dutifully pushing through) ever since the financial crisis of 2007.
Well, Dear Elizabeth, guess what? If you are a constant pain to deal with; you get drunk on cheap vodka and then make a major nuisance of yourself; and then go on blaming everyone else but yourself for the ensuing shenanigans… well, big surprise you don’t get invited to the next party!