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April 24, 2015

From Unicorn to Oxymoron - Tech Startup Frenzy Spurs New Lexicon. "Private IPO" being the Latest.

Q: What do you call a $100 million plus investment by Hedge Funds, Mutual Funds and other typically  public market investors, in Startup companies? 

A: "A Private IPO" (to put a small spin on term coined by Josh Kopelman, CEO of US-based First Round Capital)

Q: Isn't IPO short for Initial Public Offering?

A: Well, fuddy duddy, welcome to Tech (Bubble / Not Bubble / Bubble / Not Bubble) Land. As of now, anything - including seeming Oxymora - goes.

In these unusual times, Indian startups dominate list of cases cited by investors in Asia and other parts of the world. Here's an extract (emphasis mine) from a post titled "Alert: Venture Capital Tsunami in South Asia" by Piyush Chaplot, Partner at Singapore-based Innosight Ventures :
Strategic investors such as Softbank, Rakuten, Alibaba, Naspers, etc. are throwing money as if there is no tomorrow. Sovereign Wealth Funds such as GIC, Temasek, QIA and Khazanah want their share of the pie. Even Private Equity firms do not want to be left behind.  Lets look at some mind numbing data first to feel the intensity of this tsunami:
  • Flipkart raised 3 massive rounds from Series F ($210M), G ($1B), H ($700M) in a 7 month span between May and Dec 2014.
  • Ola raised Series C ($41.5M), D ($210M) and E ($400M) in 10 months between Jul 2014 to Apr 2015.
  • Snapdeal raised more than $727M between May and Oct 2014.
  • Grabtaxi raised 4 rounds of funding from Series A, B ($15M), C ($65M) & D ($250M) in a 9 month period between Apr and Dec 2014.
  • Tokopedia raised $100M in Oct 2014.
  • Housing.com raised $18M, $19M and $100M between Apr and Nov 2014.
  • PayTM parent One97 raised $635M from Alibaba and SAIF partners in Jan 2015.
...I can never comprehend how a startup moves from Series A to Series D in 9 months. Such sudden influx obviously causes ripple effects. Early stage valuations are going through the roof...The race is now on to  reach a billion dollar valuation in the shortest amount of time. Hate to say this but to a certain extent these funding rounds now decide who is going to be the winner. Taxiforsure lost its battle against Ola not because their product or team were not great. But because, they did not raise such quantums at the right time. 
Kopelman too has warned about the dangers of the Private IPOs. Extracts from his post (emphasis mine):
I don’t think we’ll fully understand or appreciate the impact of the “private IPO” phenomenon for another decade, or at least until a full cycle plays out.

In my opinion, there isn’t nearly enough focus on “low frequency trading.” Public companies reprice daily. Private companies don’t have to reprice for years on end.

One key benefit of low-frequency trading in private companies is a long-term focus. It removes arbitrary time constraints on growth and profits.

...By relying on private financing events as “comps,” we risk pricing new financings (and creating new unicorns) based on stale valuations.
Sage advice indeed.

But who's listening? 

Who's got the time?

There goes the bell for adding the next $100 Million to the Venture Intelligence Deal Digest Newsletters and PE/VC Deals Database!

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