With markets heading steadily south, no one expected a record-breaking number of initial public offerings in the first quarter of 2016. But January trounced even the most dire predictions--not one private company filed for an IPO.
While that's certainly not good news for anyone hoping for an exit, if you're a small company hoping to go public in the next year, all hope is not lost. You still have a good shot, but now more than ever you'll need to have a really solid offering, venture capitalists say.
"The IPO market is open for high-quality companies, it is not open for high-priced unicorns," says Venky Ganesan, a partner at Menlo Ventures, in Menlo Park, California. By that he means prospects are good for companies that have a stellar business plan, are profitable, and are not spending too much money; companies valued at $1 billion or more, though, may draw less investor interest.
The IPO market already had experienced a down year in 2015, with 169 companies raising $30 billion, compared with 300 companies raising $85 billion in 2014. That put the number of public exits back to levels last seen in 2009, according to Renaissance Capital, an IPO consultancy and researcher.
Prior to January, the last month without an IPO was September 2011, according to The Wall Street Journal. Plenty of economic factors played into the poor showing, Ganesan says. Those include global economic uncertainty, triggered by China, the world's second-largest economy, which has been struggling with slowing growth and the decreasing value of its currency. Then there's the plunging price of oil and other commodities. The Fed's decision to raise interest rates in the fourth quarter also may have had an impact.
The plunging values of numerous privately held companies, including the hyper-valued ones, contributed as well. For example, messaging app Snapchat, a darling of the tech world with a $16 billion valuation, took something of a hit this fall when mutual fund company Fidelity, which holds some of its shares as an institutional investor, knocked down the value of its holdings by 25 percent.
Still, many companies are waiting in the wings to go public in 2016, with papers filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2015. Those include the studio spin class phenomenon SoulCycle and national supermarket chain Albertsons, which both filed in July, and the Dell Computer spin-off SecureWorks, which filed in December.
Which of those and other IPO hopefuls have worthy prospects for long-term growth will become clear as the rest of 2016 unfolds.
"Only the good stuff is coming this year," Ganesan says.