For a platform built on 140-character snippets, San Francisco-based Twitter is certainly hogging a fair chunk of the IPO spotlight. But it’s not the only game in town. As investor appetite improves and the Big Apple’s tech scene continues to mature, analysts expect New York City to become a hub of tech IPO activity in coming years.
Part of the reason has to do with an improvement in IPO activity overall. The market for initial public offerings has been exceptionally weak in the years since 2000, which saw the dot-com bust, the September 11 attacks and the 2008 financial crisis. But there are signs things are turning around.
More than 150 IPO deals have priced in the U.S. so far this year, an increase from the 133 that priced in all of 2012, said Frank Lopez, the co-head of global capital markets at law firm Proskauer, at a seminar the company hosted last week.
Twenty-six of this year's IPOs have been technology companies. In 2008, the lowest year on record for IPOs, there were only 7 technology IPOs all year, said Lopez.
Lopez says in coming years it's fair to expect about 250 to 300 IPOs annually, with about 75 of them in the technology space. While that's still far less than the 852 IPOs that priced in 1996, the nearest market peak, it's a sign of improvement. “We really believe…that there is the start of an uptick and a real rebound, even though it has been a tough go for the last 13 years,” Lopez said.
At the same time, the New York City tech scene has exploded. Technology is the second largest job-creating sector in New York City, according to data compiled by the office of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg. In addition to a proliferation of accelerators, venture capital deals and merger and acquisition deals, some of the major California technology giants have established headquarters in New York City, including Google, Facebook and LinkedIn, notes Lopez.
“We see this convergence in the uptick of the IPO market and an uptick in New York technology,” Lopez said. The result, he predicts, is that the volume of New York City-based tech companies going public will increase over the next 20 years.
The kinds of tech companies investors are looking for:
Where Larry Ellison of Oracle famously asked “What the hell is cloud computing?” five years ago, technology companies that provide cloud-computing services are all the rage in the IPO market. “It seems to be the buzzword that everybody wants to use,” Daryn Grossman, co-head of technology, media and communications at Proskauer said at the seminar last week. Companies that identified “cloud computing” as their exclusive business model had a 50 percent jump in the price of their stock on their first day on public markets, said Grossman.
Other desirable trends for technology companies looking to go public include anything that touches on the idea of “big data,” or the buzz-worthy concept of collecting and sorting through the vast quantities of information that widespread Internet connectivity is generating, said Justin Smolkin, the head of equity capital markets origination at UBS Americas. Investors are also hungry for any technology company that can access and leverage the millennial 18-to-30-year-old generation, says Smolkin.
But as the IPO markets improve, investor’s tastes broaden. “Investors, in markets like they are now, are very willing to engage in a variety of different sectors,” Smolkin said.
While all trends in the technology IPO market apply to New York City, one emerging hotspot that is Big Apple-specific is advertising-tech companies, said Jeffrey Neuburger, co-head of technology, media and communications at Proskauer. “Particularly because New York has a significant advertising base, you see a lot of companies that are focused on advertising that are heading towards the public markets,” Neuburger said.