It’s the question on everyone’s lips, particularly in the fallout of Facebook’s anticlimactic public debut. But, not surprisingly, when Bloomberg TV’s Deirdre Bolton asked some of the top venture capitalists which tech companies might go public next, everyone steered clear of naming names.
It will be “something that looks more like Salesforce than Facebook,” Fred Wilson, managing partner of Union Square Ventures, said Friday at the F.ounders conference at the Nasdaq headquarters New York. He added that investors will likely feel more comfortable with an enterprise-like business that has a more sustainable and predictable business.
Eric Hippeau with Lerer Ventures said he thinks there are a few companies big enough to go public, particularly in the media and e-commerce areas. And Google Venture’s Rich Miner said potential IPO candidates are those with solid business models, good growth and revenue. But even companies that might be a little less predictable but are in highly disruptive spaces (such as mobile) are possibilities, Miner said.
Asked about how secondary markets (that let pre-IPO companies sell stock) change the game for investors, Goldman Sachs’ Anthony Soto said they provide liquidity that wouldn’t otherwise exist. But he warned that secondary trades don’t accurately reflect the value the company would get in the public markets because there’s limited supply and demand, and those markets exist outside the environment of SEC regulation.
At a F.ounders event Thursday night, Soto also commented on the likelihood of more tech IPOs this year, saying that he doesn’t expect to see another Internet IPO until after Labor Day.
To the room full of tech startup founders, Wilson said they should think about whether they want to run their companies for 15 to 20 years or exit and move on to something new. “If you want to make a company your life’s work, then be a public company,” he said, “If you’re looking for exits… I don’t think the public markets are the way to go.”