For most tech startup founders, the goal is to build a product people love that makes their lives better. However, the long-term financial exit strategy is typically to be acquired by one of tech’s giants, or hit the public markets through an Initial Public Offering (IPO). At the end of 2016, we published data on the tech acquisitions by the Big Five tech companies since 1985 to look at the acquisition exit opportunities for tech startups. To kick this year off, we investigated the alternative exit strategy by studying the 100 biggest tech IPOs of the last decade, and also what that might mean for Snap’s (formerly Snapchat’s) impending IPO.
You can find our interactive data visualization and explore the data on IPO price and valuation movements for yourself here. However, I wanted to quickly summarize some of the major trends we identified.
Snap would be the fourth biggest tech IPO of the last decade
If Snap hits its reported IPO price target of $25 billion, it will be the fourth largest tech IPO of the last decade - just ahead of Twitter and behind Facebook, Alibaba.com and JD.com. It would also be the second biggest IPO since Alibaba.com. Of the ten social media IPOs in the dataset, six of them are trading up on their IPO price, whilst four are trading down. So there’s not much of a definite steer for Snap and their investors from the performance of previous social media IPOs.
Over two-thirds of IPOs are trading up
67 of the 100 IPOs we analyzed are trading up on their IPO price, suggesting that the public markets have been a positive experience for most of the tech companies who’ve gone public in the last decade. The leaderboard of companies that have seen the biggest percentage gains in value since going public looks like this:
While the biggest percentage losers of value since IPO are:
Large amounts of funding doesn’t always ensure success
Although many tech startup founders obsess over funding, it doesn’t always lead to success. In fact, we found that the companies with the least amount of funding saw the largest median increase of 116% in their valuation since their IPOs. For example, VIP.com was one of 58 companies that went public after raising less than $100m in funding. After being valued at $300 million during their IPO, they’ve increased their value 21x to $6.77 billion.
Companies with three founders grew quickest post-IPO
It may not be the cause of the success or downfall of an IPO, but it was an interesting trend that companies with three founders saw, on average, 105% growth post-IPO. This is the largest growth out of all the different founder numbers. Medidata Solutions was one of 23 tech IPOs where the company had three founders. They saw impressive 10x growth post-IPO from $300m to $3.05bn.
Going public aged six to ten delivers the best post-IPO growth
The balance of going public too early or too late in a tech company’s growth journey is one that many founders juggle. However, it seems from our dataset that going public between six and ten years into the company’s life delivers the highest post-IPO growth of 95% on average. Tesla Motors was one of the 51 companies that fitted into this age bracket when they went public and they saw 17.7x growth in value after their IPO, rising from $2bn at IPO to $37.4bn.
Where does this leave Snap?
Like everything in tech startups, there is no silver bullet to tech IPO success. A combination of focus, making the right decisions, and hard work are what often drive the success of a tech startup. However, based on the trends we’ve seen, Snap with its two founders, a reported $2.3 billion in funding, and an IPO that’s reported to take place six years into its life will hit the mark on one out of the three trends we’ve seen. So, I guess you have to say that the jury’s still out.