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Report: Venture Capital Is a Big Reason Tech IPOs Slowed in 2015, and It'll Likely Stay That Way

Why take public money when you can take private money?

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Fewer and fewer technology startups are going public, and when they do go public, it’s after they’ve raised enormous amounts of capital from private investors to whom they often give attractive financial protections should things go south.

A report from Ernst & Young analyzing the Q4 IPO market offers some compelling reasons for why this “multitrack financing” model has become increasingly popular, and why it has lasting power. But first, the final numbers on tech IPOs in 2015:

“Technology IPOs on U.S. exchanges were 47 percent lower in 2015 by deal number, and 27 percent lower by proceeds [excluding Alibaba] compared to 2014, raising only $8.1 billion through IPOs, compared with an estimated $20 billion through private offerings in the first six months alone.”*

Union Square Ventures’ Fred Wilson and Fortune’s Dan Primack have pointed out that this decline in public offerings was brought about by SEC rule changes from the mid-2000s that made it a lot easier to raise significant amounts of money in the private market. The authors of the EY report believe that this model of financing is going to stick around, because both startups and investors seem to like it better than the old rush-to-IPO strategy during the dot-com era.

From EY:

IPOs generally take at least two years to plan, but access to private capital is much quicker, enabling companies that need to scale rapidly with the chance to lock in the funding they need to generate competitive advantage sooner. Other factors in favor of alternative capital include the narrowing of the valuation gap between public and private capital (i.e. the difference between market valuation at IPO and at last rounds of fundraising prior to IPO), which makes it harder to achieve and sustain the first-day pop.

What the report calls “the narrowing of the valuation gap between public and private capital,” you might more easily recognize as the recent downswing in private valuations of high-flying multi-billion dollar startups like Snapchat and Zenefits. Wilson and Primack argue that as more big private equity players like Fidelity and BlackRock (whose investments are semi-public) come into the picture, we’ll see more of the up-and-down valuations of Zenefits-like startups that you’d otherwise expect from the public market (although probably much more subdued).

On the whole, the global IPO market appears to be relatively healthy. Predictably, the biggest growth area going into 2016 will be in Asian markets where the Chinese central bank’s loose monetary policy will have the biggest impact. The whole report is filled with handsome-looking charts and a lot of numbers you can use to impress your family with at Christmas dinner.

You can read the full thing below:

EY Global IPO Trends Q4 2015

* We’ve made some slight grammar and punctuation edits for clarity.

This article originally appeared on

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