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Illustration: Lazaro Gamio / Axios

Venture-backed tech companies are going public, but it’s less and less because they need cash.

The bottom line: For tech companies with access to seemingly unlimited private capital, other priorities — like founders' liquidity and market validation — eventually lead them to make the jump.

The influx of late-stage capital in recent years has made it possible for companies to delay going public. A year ago, the average company age at IPO was over 10 years, according to Pitchbook.

  • “It used to be that IPOs really were about generating growth capital,” says Lise Buyer, founder of IPO consulting firm Class V Group.
  • Now, companies can raise that capital privately, sometimes even from public market investors like mutual funds.
  • IPO contenders like Uber, Lyft, and Airbnb, for example, have raised billions of dollars already and could certainly raise more without going public.
  • The JOBS Act has contributed to the delays by raising the ceiling on total number of accredited shareholders a private company may have from 500 to 2,000.

The top reasons tech companies go public these days are liquidity for early shareholders and employees and market validation in the eyes of big customers and prospective M&A targets, says Barrett Cohn, co-founder of Scenic Advisement, an investment bank that works with private companies.

  • He points to the small floats of recent IPOs like Anaplan (12.7%), Elastic (10.1%) and Upwork (11.8%) as examples of firms that seem to want to be public companies without necessarily needing money from the market’s investors. (Buyer, however, suggests that these companies could be planning for subsequent public offerings at a later time.)
  • Spotify’s unusual path to the public market this year—a direct listing, through which it raised no funds at all — is another example where a company made the jump because it saw benefits in being public, rather than in the IPO process.

Yes, but: This is still a luxury reserved for the best and brightest stars. For a number of tech companies without exorbitant valuations and private investor appeal, the IPO remains a significant fundraising event. "It's a barbell," says Buyer.

Go deeper

Updated 4 hours ago - Sports

Olympics dashboard

Silver medalist Lilly King of Team USA (left) embraces gold medalist Tatjana Schoenmaker of Team South Africa on the podium during the medal ceremony for the Women's 200m breaststroke final on July 30. Photo: Clive Rose/Getty Images

🥇 : U.S. gymnast Suni Lee wins gold in the women's individual all-around

🚣‍♀️: Team USA women's eight rowing fails to reach the podium

🤸🏾‍♀️: Simone Biles reacts to "love and support" after withdrawing from all-around gymnastics and team finals, citing her mental health

🏊: Olympic swimmer Ryan Murphy wins Silver in 200m

📷: In photos: Tokyo Olympics day 6 highlights

🗓: The Olympic events to watch today

🏃‍: Female Olympians push back against double standard in uniforms

Go deeper: Full Axios coverage

Former Michigan Sen. Carl Levin dies at 87

Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI) in 2014. He died Thursday. Photo: Win McNamee/Getty Images

Former U.S. Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) died Thursday, his family and the Levin Center at Wayne Law — which bore his name — confirmed. He was 87.

Why it matters: The Detroit native served for 36 years in the U.S. Senate, serving twice as chairman of the Armed Services Committee and is credited with helping overturn the military's “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” rule.

Updated 5 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Military members will be included in Biden's new COVID guidance

Joe Biden. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Members of the military will be required to get vaccinations or face regular testing, social distancing, mask mandates and restrictions on travel for work, the the Pentagon said on Thursday evening.

Why it matters: The policy was announced for federal workers and onsite contractors earlier on Thursday, part of several new Biden initiatives to get more Americans vaccinated and slow the spread of the Delta variant.

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