Updated: Dec 31, 2022
IPOs - especially unicorns - are on track to reach new records.
Why do we care?
Well, those VCs you're after, care a lot. The cash they invest in your startup comes from investors they convinced to trust them with their money. When IPOs happen, liquidity happens. Investors get their money back and (often) invest again, maybe in your company.
US VC-Backed IPO & Post-Valuations
Source: SVB State of the markets Q3/2021 report. 2021 are estimates, with 36 IPOs and an aggregate post-valuation of $313bn as of July 16, 2021.
An IPO is just one exit option for startups but a very special one: It’s the Unicorn exit. While Unicorns are often celebrated - who doesn’t like “a billion” - they come with a challenge: How to get your cash back? The average tech M&A deal is around $120m and we see about 600’ish deals a year. The average unicorn is valued $3.2bn and there are around 800 of them. As growth-stage capital has provided the means to stay private longer, every investor wants to see their money back one day. IPOs play a critical part in that story. Just in 2021 alone, 59 of 65 unicorn exits happened via IPO.
Global Unicorn Exits 2011 - 2021
Source: Statista - Number of unicorn exits worldwide by type. As of July 2021.
Investors look at your startup in the context of the market and IPO valuations are steadily climbing, reaching 18.5x revenues in 2021. Which is in showing startup funding valuations, reaching revenue multiples of about 12x in the consumer internet, 20x in enterprise software and even 22x in Fintech.
US VC-Backed Tech IPO Revenues & Multiples
Source: SVB State of the markets Q3/2021 report. Data as of July 16, 2021.
Which brings us back to why we care. While you still need to build your product, win those customers and get your employees motivated, it is helpful to understand how investors look at your startup. An IPO (or another exit type) is their final chapter with your startup. Since only very small group of founders achieve an exit, IPOs are serving as lighthouses for startup opportunities. They are the public display of what could happen to their investment if all stars align.