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Pinterest and Warby Parker -- The Next Pre-IPO Stars?


With Facebook's initial public offering around the corner, a new crop of not-yet-public companies are moving into the spotlight. Pinterest and Warby Parker may be the next pre-IPO stars, according to an analysis from SecondMarket.

How's that? The companies top a list of "rising stars" from SecondMarket, an online marketplace for buying and selling private-company stock and other illiquid assets. The "rising stars" list spotlights companies with the greatest increase in the number of institutional and accredited investors, in addition to ordinary Joes and Janes, tracking them on the platform. SecondMarket calls these site users "watchers."

Here's how the list of rising stars and their increase in "watchers" shook out for the first quarter of 2012:

1. Pinterest, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based visual bookmarking social networking site: nearly 670% (As of press time, 1,543 watchers total.)
2. Warby Parker, a New York-based online eyeglasses retailer: 455% (91 watchers)
3. Stripe, a San Francisco-based online payment platform: 392% (99 watchers)
4. ServiceNow, a San Diego-based business-tech operations company: 355% (62 watchers)
5. GlobalLogic, a McLean, Va.-based software product-development company: 232% jump (188 watchers)

Related: 7 Do's and Don'ts for Marketing With Pinterest

Companies talked about on SecondMarket have "arrived," says Michael Greeley, general partner of Boston-based VC firm Flybridge Capital Partners. "They have some scale, they have some notoriety," he says.

While the investing community once viewed the idea of entrepreneurs selling portions of their company before going public as a negative, that's no longer necessarily the case, according to Greeley.

"The IPO process -- notwithstanding the JOBS Act, which still has to be implemented -- is fundamentally distressed," says Greeley. "It is not working the way it should be working." Being able to turn some of a company's value into cash before it scales and completes an arduous IPO process relieves some pressure and allows entrepreneurs to take more risks and innovate, says Greeley. Entrepreneurs may be less apt to worry about whether and how they will pay for their kids' educations or buy a house, for example.

Related: How a Startup's Social Vision Wins Customers (Video)

There are risks, however. Being on SecondMarket takes some of the "private" out of being a private company. A company's value on SecondMarket can rise and fall in a public display of sentiment about the company. "Even Facebook was a little bit of an EKG chart: It went up, it went down, but ultimately it went up and to the right," says Greeley.

While Pinterest and Warby Parker topped the list of companies with the fastest-growing number of watchers, they are far from the most watched. The list of the most-watched SecondMarket companies among those with venture funding was led by Facebook, followed by Twitter. The most-watched company not backed by venture investors was Bloomberg, followed by Bose.

Related: How to Build a Billion-Dollar Startup

Talk to us: What do you think is the next hottest pre-IPO company and why? Leave a comment below.

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