IPO activity is up from last year but still remains low compared to the past decade.
PitchBook released its 2017 U.S. PE & VC IPO Trends Report on Thursday, noting that there have been 74 IPOs thus far in 2017, with companies raising a collective $17.4 billion.
That’s about in line with 2016, when 75 companies went public and raised $13 billion, though PitchBook noted that “2017 has been notably lacking in newly priced IPOs despite being a year marked by frequent record highs in the public equity markets, low volatility and increased scope of the JOBS Act.”
Some of the bigger-name companies that went public this year haven’t performed well on Wall Street. Snap started trading at around $30 in March but shares have fallen to $14; Blue Apron started at around $10 in June and now trades at $3 per share.
However, others like Roku — which has returned 166 percent from its IPO price — are seeing early success.
“2017 has demonstrated a slight recovery in IPO activity for sponsor-backed companies, despite struggles from some high-profile companies in the public market,” PitchBook Analyst Cameron Stanfill said in a statement. “Yet, performance for IPOs in aggregate have been very positive for 2017 – suggesting a normalization for the US IPO market.”
There have been a record 10 VC-backed “unicorns” — companies valued at $1 billion or more — that have gone public this year, but PitchBook said that “the ‘private for longer’ phenomenon remains in full effect for VC-backed companies, as they continue to choose the familiarity and independence of raising funding over an exit.”
In Washington, two companies have gone public this year. Real estate data giant Redfin had its offering in July; shares have remained steady, trading at about $23.
Figure maker Funko went public this month and had a rocky start as shares dipped below $8, down 35 percent from the company’s initial stock price of $12.
Of the 369 companies CB Insights listed last year that had potential to go public in 2017, seven were based in Washington: Avalara, Rover, PayScale, Redfin, OfferUp, Avvo, and Inrix.
Only one from that group has gone public this year. Here’s what Stanfill told GeekWire in regard to Washington IPO activity in 2017:
“Firstly, IPOs are the least common exit type for private companies – an average of only 7.5% of total VC-backed exits come from public listings. The average company that goes public also tends to be much larger. So, regionally the potential for IPOs is limited by inventory of private companies that fit this profile and if an IPO is a beneficial choice strategically. In Washington we observed 21 total VC-backed exits through the first 3 quarters of 2017, including the one IPO. This works out to 5% of exits in the state coming from IPOs, well within the historic range.
The process to complete an IPO is also a significant undertaking, and thus, timing also has an effect on IPO counts in a given year. Implementing all the internal processes required to effectively operate as a public company, filing with the SEC, hiring investment bankers, investor roadshows and gauging market conditions can all attribute to delays. For example, during 2015 (a more active year for IPOs than 2016 & 2017) Washington saw zero VC-backed IPOs, but then three Washington-based companies went public in 2016 as the environment was cooling off.”
In 2016, three companies in Washington went public, including two tech companies: PhaseRX, Impinj, and Apptio. That was up from 2015, when zero companies went public, but down from previous years.
Greg Beams, a partner in EY’s Seattle office, also shed light on the IPO climate in Washington:
“The timing of any company’s initial public offering is dependent on both the broader investor marketplace (which is outside of the control any single company), and how the company’s operational and financial results and needs align with the investor marketplace’s appetite for IPOs. Said another way, the marketplace has to want the company’s stock and the company has to want to go public and have a need for the dollars it would raise through that process. The timing for most companies’ IPOs are dependent on those two forces aligning and until that happens, they are unlikely to be able to go public.
In 2015 we had a moderately active IPO market in the U.S. but we didn’t see any Washington companies go public. Then in 2016 we had a much slower IPO market nationally, but saw three Washington companies complete their IPOs. While the IPO market was less active in 2016 than it had been in 2015, that lower activity aligned with the Washington companies waiting to go public and they were able to complete their IPOs. The take-away is that national trends don’t necessarily translate into any specific IPO opportunity, and this held true for Washington companies in both 2015 and 2016.
As we have seen, 2017 is shaping up to be a stronger IPO year in the U.S. The IPO activity through September 30, 2017 has already outpaced all of 2016 in terms of the number of IPOs and outpaced all of 2014, 2015 and 2016 separately in terms of dollars raised during that time. Washington State saw Redfin go public in July of this year, followed by Funko going public in November. While we would love to see more companies go public, this is on par with the general trend of between two and four Washington companies going public each year, and we anticipate that this will continue in 2017.”