The Nasdaq MarketSite in New York.
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Following a record-smashing tech IPO year in 2021 that featured the debuts of electric car maker Rivian, restaurant software company Toast, cloud software vendors GitLab and HashiCorp and stock-trading app Robinhood, 2022 has been a complete dud.
The only notable tech offering in the U.S. this year was Intel’s spinoff of Mobileye, a 23-year-old company that makes technology for self-driving cars and was publicly traded until its acquisition in 2017. Mobileye raised just under $1 billion, and no other U.S. tech IPO pulled in even $100 million, according to FactSet.
In 2021, by contrast, there were at least 10 tech IPOs in the U.S. that raised $1 billion or more, and that doesn’t account for the direct listings of Roblox, Coinbase and Squarespace, which were so well-capitalized they didn’t need to bring in outside cash.
The narrative completely flipped when the calendar turned, with investors bailing on risk and the promise of future growth, in favor of profitable businesses with balance sheets deemed strong enough to weather an economic downturn and sustained higher interest rates. Pre-IPO companies altered their plans after seeing their public market peers plunge by 50%, 60%, and in some cases, more than 90% from last year’s highs.
In total, IPO deal proceeds plummeted 94% in 2022 — from $155.8 billion to $8.6 billion — according to Ernst & Young’s IPO report published in mid-December. As of the report’s publication date, the fourth quarter was on pace to be the weakest of the year.
With the Nasdaq Composite headed for its steepest annual slump since 2008 and its first back-to-back years underperforming the S&P 500 since 2006-2007, tech investors are looking for signs of a bottom.
But David Trainer, CEO of stock research firm New Constructs, says investors first need to get a grip on reality and get back to valuing emerging tech companies based on fundamentals and not far-out promises.
As tech IPOs were flying in 2020 and 2021, Trainer was waving the warning flag, putting out detailed reports on software, e-commerce and tech-adjacent companies that were taking their sky-high private market valuations to the public markets. Trainer’s calls appeared comically bearish when the market was soaring, but many of his picks look prescient today, with Robinhood, Rivian and Sweetgreen each down at least 85% from their highs last year.
“Until we see a persistent return to intelligent capital allocation as the primary driver of investment decisions, I think the IPO market will struggle,” Trainer said in an email. “Once investors focus on fundamentals again, I think the markets can get back to doing what they are supposed to do: support intelligent allocation of capital.”
Lynn Martin, president of the New York Stock Exchange, told CNBC’s “Squawk on the Street” last week that she’s “optimistic about 2023” because the “backlog has never been stronger,” and that activity will pick up once