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EXIT STRATEGIES

IPO Activity Strong in 2004

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Jan. 4, 2005--Google's IPO captured the headlines in 2004, partly because of their unorthodox approach--an auction--and partly because investors were nostalgic for its suffix--.com.

But Google's $1.66 billion IPO was one chapter of a much larger story: the resurgence of private companies going public, or venture-backed IPOs. In 2004, 93 private companies went public, raising a combined $11 billion, according to a report released yesterday by Thomson Venture Economics and the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA). Indeed, each quarter of 2004 individually outperformed all of 2003, when only 29 venture-backed companies went public for a total of $2 billion.

The dotcom bust crushed investor confidence, leaving many with "indigestion," said Ben Holmes, managing member of Protege Funds LLC, an investment firm in Boulder, Colorado. As a result, companies sidelined public offerings because the weak market would have led to greater dilution.

But by 2004, early-stage investors needed to exit their investments to get capital for new ventures, Holmes said. "It's the VC cycle: invest, divest, reinvest. And 2004 was the year to divest," he said.

Thomson Financial found that all but 18 of the 93 companies that went public in 2004 received their first funding before the bubble burst. "The public markets are now embracing many of these companies that went through the bubble burst and lived to tell," said Mark Heesen, president of the NVCA, in a statement. He added, "These organizations had sound business models and did what it took to weather through some very difficult times with positive results."

The year's class of IPOs, which included DreamWorks Animation (NYSE:DWA), Cabela's, Inc (NYSE:CAB), Bill Barrett Corporation (NYSE:BBG) and Theravance, Inc. (NASDAQ:THRX), was well received on Wall Street. As of the last day of trading in 2004, 69 of the venture-backed companies, or 74%, were trading at or above their offering price, found Thomson Financial.





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