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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser / Axios

2017 was a year of change and sluggishness for tech IPOs, against a backdrop of record-high stock market prices.

Why so complicated: The arrival of alternative mechanisms, rocky performances from some high-profile issuers (e.g., Snap, Blue Apron), the arrival of deep-pocketed SoftBank, and a renewed public market emphasis on profitability over growth.

Staying private longer

The JOBS Act of 2012 helped tech companies remain private longer by removing a rule that companies must begin publicly disclosing financial information once they had more than 500 shareholders. It's what effectively forced Google to go public, and would have had a similar impact on companies like Airbnb and Uber.

  • "I think the JOBS Act has done permanent harm to the IPO market," says Lise Buyer, founder of IPO consulting firm Class V Group, particularly because sky-high valuations for older companies leave less room for growth post-IPO.
  • SoftBank this year unveiled its $100 billion Vision Fund, which is by far the largest-ever investment vehicle aimed at private technology companies. In fact, it's the largest-ever private equity fund of any kind. It has made delaying going public easier for companies like WeWork, and even recently tried (but failed) to preempt an IPO for fashion subscription service Stitch Fix.
  • Snap's highly-anticipated March listing went smoothly, but its rapid stock price decline may have scared off some other consumer-focused tech companies that were considering IPOs of their own.
Control-Alt-IPO

Some bold IPO alternatives emerged this year, designed to alleviate the pain of listing, of being public, or both.

  • Venture firm Social Capital took public a special purpose acquisition company in September. While technically an IPO, the real goal was to acquire a tech "unicorn" that wants to avoid its own listing. "The whole process sucks," Social Capital's Chamath Palihapitiya told Axios at the time.
  • Spotify continues to plan for a direct listing, which would circumvent the standard Wall Street float. If successful, it could become a model that others will follow.
  • The Long-Term Stock Exchange emerged to help let public companies focus more on long-term goals than short-term shareholder capriciousness.
  • Several pre-IPO companies got acquired before anticipated listings, such as Cisco buying AppDynamics and Vista Equity Partners buying Datto.
Crystal Ball

A rise in interest rates could lower the amount of late-stage capital for private tech companies, as mutual funds and other large institutional investors shift their asset allocations, says John Tuttle, global listings chief at The New York Stock Exchange. That could create a flood of new issuers, or just better negotiating leverage for SoftBank.

Go deeper

Biden's reengineer-America moment

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Senate's bipartisan $1.2 trillion infrastructure bill and President Biden's $3.5 trillion spending package could live or die this week — and take Democrats' fortunes with them. But all the minute-by-minute political drama obscures how much America could change if even a fraction of it passes.

The big picture: Anything short of total failure could have a transformative impact on day-to-day life — from how we move around to our access to the internet, paid family leave and child care, health care and college.

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
49 mins ago - Economy & Business

Pandemic concerns change economic growth forecast

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Business economists have tempered their 2021 growth expectations, cutting nearly a point off their annual GDP forecast since earlier this year, according to the NABE outlook survey released today.

Why it matters: This reflects increased concerns over the pandemic's impact on the economy, particularly due to the spread of Delta and other variants. Panelists said that a faster vaccine rollout could improve their outlooks.

Updated 2 hours ago - World

German election: Social Democrats narrowly beat Angela Merkel's bloc

SPD leader Olaf Scholz. Photo: Sean Gallup/Getty Images

BERLIN — The center-left Social Democratic Party (SDP) clinched a narrow victory in Germany's historic federal elections on Sunday, just four years after suffering its worst loss since World War II.

Why it matters: It's a stunning political comeback for the SPD, paving the way for its chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz to form a new governing coalition and lead Europe's largest economy into the post-Merkel era.