Investors Beware: Today’s $100M+ Late-stage Private Rounds Differ from an IPO

R @ times squareEvery successful technology company raises money throughout its lifecycle, perhaps starting with a seed investment and progressing through Series A, B, C, late-stage investments, and, for the most successful companies, an IPO. Historically, different financial institutions specialized in different stages, because the assessment of risk and opportunity was considered unique at each stage — for example, a seed investor was unlikely to do late-stage financing, and vice versa.

Over the last few years, the late-stage (pre-IPO) market has become the most competitive, the most crowded, and the frothiest of these financing stages. Investors from all walks of life have decided that “late stage private” is where they want to play. As a result, a “late-stage” financing is no longer reserved for high-revenue, pre-profitability companies getting ready for an IPO; it is simply any large round of financing done at a high price. An unprecedented 80 private companies have raised financings at valuations over $1B in the last few years. These large, high-priced private financings are the defining characteristic of this particular technology cycle.

Some have argued that each of these companies would already be public in a prior era. Buying into such a notion is dangerous – dangerous for the entrepreneur and dangerous for the investor. Actually, very few of these companies are at a point where they could or should consider being public. Lost in this conversation are the dramatic differences between a high priced private round and an IPO. Understanding these differences is crucial to understanding the true risks in this large private-round phenomenon.

Keep reading post by VC Bill Gurley at the Financial Times.

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