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As tech IPOs in Q3 plummet, sector again faces a crisis of confidence

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The soaring hopes that U.S. tech IPOs were rebounding after a strong first half of 2017 have now been thoroughly sent crashing back to earth.

According to Renaissance Capital, there were a mere three tech IPOs in the three months ending in September. That’s down from 12 in Q2 and 10 for the same period one year ago. And it includes just one U.S. company: Roku, which had a strong debut. Otherwise, Renaissance notes that even as tech IPO filings continue to grow, the “valuation-sensitive environment likely motivated tech companies to push back IPO plans to the 4Q17 and 2018.”

Part of the problem: The spectacular flameout of the Blue Apron and Snap IPOs earlier in the year likely spooked investors and inspired several companies headed down the path to an IPO to hit the pause button for at least one quarter.

All of this is bad news for unicorns. The Wall Street Journal counts 167 private companies valued at $1 billion or more, a number that has climbed by 10 since the start of the year. With diminished chances of an IPO, and valuations that make them unattractive to potential acquirers, the options for exits are limited.

Looking for a silver lining? Renaissance said tech companies represent the largest chunk of pending IPO filings. It’s quite possible that if the stars align, Q4 could be a big one as companies like Switch, CarGurus, and MongoDB appear headed for the public markets. In addition, Renaissance notes that Asian gaming portal Sea could be on tap for a multi-billion dollar IPO.

Of course, for tech, this is the same old song that’s been playing for much of the past three years. Wait until next quarter! Only that next quarter never arrives.

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