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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

43 mins ago - World

Blinken to visit Ukraine as Russia invasion threat looms

Blinken (R) with President Zelensky. Photo: Efrem Lukatsky/Pool via Getty

Secretary of State Antony Tony Blinken will travel to Ukraine on Tuesday as the country faces an ongoing threat of Russian invasion.

Driving the news: Blinken will meet with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba, as well as officials at the U.S. embassy in Kyiv to discuss contingency planning. He'll then travel to Berlin to meet German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock and attend a meeting of the "Transatlantic Quad" — France, Germany, the U.K. and U.S.

Updated 49 mins ago - World

At least 3 dead after Tonga volcano eruption and tsunami

A satellite image of the explosive eruption of the Hunga Tonga-Hunga Ha'apai volcano on Saturday. Photo: UNICEF/NOAA

At least three people are confirmed to have died in Tonga following the undersea volcanic eruption that sent tsunami waves toward the island nation and across the Pacific over the weekend, officials said Tuesday.

The big picture: Officials reported major damage along the western coast of the main island of Tongatapu, where the capital, Nuku'alofa, was covered in ash and dust, including on the runway of the airport. Officials in Tonga confirmed three deaths in the country's first official statement since the crisis began.

Mike Allen, author of AM
2 hours ago - Economy & Business

Charted: GOP surged as Biden slumped

Expand chart
Reproduced from Gallup. (Independents were asked their party leaning.) Chart: Axios Visuals

Gallup polling found a huge shift in party preference over the course of 2021, from a 9-point Democratic advantage in the first quarter to a 5-point Republican edge in the fourth quarter.

Why it matters: It's the biggest swing in one calendar year for Gallup's 30 years of tracking.