Would Be IPOs in IT / Internet / Digital Media
May 4, 2009
Folks in the VC industry are often asked about or end up talking about the current state of the IPO market and the prospects for recovery in the near to longer term. At the NVCA’s annual meeting last wk, they presented a plan to try to address both systemic and macro challenges faced by VC-backed companies with hopes of an IPO. Others like Fred Wilson suggest an end to the IPO drought is nigh.
To be clear, we VCs clearly stand to benefit from a healthier IPO market. And undoubtedly some of the blame for lackluster demand for newly public companies stems from the fact that VCs pushed (w/ help from some investment bankers, public market investors, and entreprenuers) too many “un” startups into the public markets in the late 90s… unprofitable, undifferentiated, unsustainable, etc.
There’s fairly broad agreement in the startup ecosystem that there a number of companies today who’ve achieved scale, profitability, and a sustainable growth model that under “normal” circumstances could have a successful public offering if they so chose. Many might elect not to go public in the near term for a variety of reasons including inability to obtain the valuation they want, preference of existing management not to be subject to public market scrutiny, additional SARBOX technicalities to be ironed out, etc. But these companies have the raw ingredients to be public.
In any event, I thought I’d start compiling a list of these “would be” IPOs in the IT / digital media space. I am undoubtedly be missing lots of candidates here, so I would welcome other examples which should be on the list via comments section or email (and thanks to those of you who informally contributed as I drafted this). I’ve excluded companies like OpenTable which have already filed an S-1, and so I’m relying on “scuttlebutt” for data to validate these but trying to stick to fairly “reliable” scuttlebutt. My rough criteria are as follows: VC-backed startups w/at least $100M revenue (annualized run rate ok, if prior yr revenue >$50M), top line growth rate 20% or greater, cashflow breakeven (can be GAAP unprofitable, but not burning cash), sustainable product/service (loosely defined, but can keep high margins or growth rate for forseeable future). It’s not to say that companies that don’t meet these criteria couldn’t get public, but they’d be harder pressed.