Then and Now: IPOs, Private Equity, and the Next Generation of the Tech Boom

Over the shoulder shot of person working on laptop

IPOs and the kinds of technology behind them have changed since the golden days of 1990s Silicon Valley.
Image: Unsplash.com

The Dot Com bubble of the 90s changed the face of tech and finance in ways that are still affecting these realms today. As the hot new kind of business, tech companies proliferated in the 90s, with the IPO as a rite of passage into the “adulthood” of a “real” business. Some companies, like Apple, Yahoo, and eBay, live on; others crashed and burned when the bubble burst.

Today, tech companies shift to IPOs in different ways and for different reasons than they did in the 90s. Silicon Valley is still booming, but startups are far more likely to turn to individual investors as opposed to IPOs when trying to fund growth. The number and the value of technology IPOs are both way down from the 90s, more resembling what the market saw in the early 80s, albeit with higher amounts of money raised.

Funding in the heyday of the 90s tech bubble came from sources like Thom Weisel’s Montgomery Securities, a private equity firm built on the idea of supporting smaller, more individualized businesses. Like many of those tech superstars of the 90s, however, Montgomery Securities no longer exists—though Weisel himself has moved on to other private equity endeavors in the same vein as the company that started it all.

Part of the reason there was so much energy and enthusiasm behind tech companies of the 90s is that their stock prices soared without any real plan on how to live up to the related, absurdly high expectations. Nowadays, stock prices for tech companies rise or fall based on company profits. In fact, tech company stock is now a bit cheaper than it was then.

Modern investors are also different from their 90s counterparts in that they seem statistically more interested in investing in companies that aren’t already profiting by the time they reach their IPO. According to Bloomberg, of the 206 companies that had IPOs in the US in 2014, 71% had had no profits in the year before their offering.

Unlike the 90s, biotech seems to be where it’s at in terms of rising tech companies these days. Biotech companies tend to have IPOs similar to what you’d see in the 90s: small companies with no revenue but lots of promise, going public to raise the money they need to bring a product to market. That’s pretty specific to today’s biotech IPOs, though; in the rest of the IPO market, Bloomberg says, companies are waiting longer to go public, which is why there are fewer IPOs over all.

We may not be experiencing the sort of tech boom that became an emblem of the 90s, but there are still plenty of opportunities for small companies to make their mark on the world. Whether it’s through individual investors or IPOs, cutting edge tech will always have a place in the market. It’s just that the details of that place are likely to change over time.

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About DevonJ140
I am currently an Accounting Director living in New York City. I love reading and learning more about business, finance, tech, and current events.

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