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Tech founders are shunning IPOs after extended market lull, survey finds

Pedestrians pass the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York, US, on Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2024.
Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Silicon Valley is known for producing tech businesses that start in garages and turn into massive publicly traded companies ubiquitously known across the globe. From Oracle and Microsoft to Google and Facebook, the public markets are responsible for turning ambitious tech founders into billionaires.

But the appeal of the IPO is waning, according to a survey published this week from startup accelerator Techstars. Of the 1,550 entrepreneurs surveyed by Techstars, only 15% said their long-term goal is an IPO. That’s down from 16% a year earlier.

Following an extended bull market in high-growth software and internet stocks, the tech IPO market collapsed in 2022 due to soaring inflation and rising interest rates, which pushed investors out of risk, slashed valuations and led many later-stage companies to delay their plans to go public. 

The prior year was a record period for new offerings, with companies including Roblox, Robinhood, Rivian and UiPath hitting the market. There have been scant few notable tech IPOs in the past two and a half years.

“In combination with the lack of confidence that IPOs will bounce back in short order, this year’s data further underlines the trend that startups are staying private for longer, and IPOs are out of favor with the vast majority of early-stage entrepreneurs,” Techstars said in its report.

For 34% of entrepreneurs surveyed, the preference is to get acquired by a publicly traded company, down from 36% last year, while 30% indicated their goal is to remain private or independent, up from 28% in the prior report.

The trading floor of the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) prepares for the social media platform Reddit’s initial public offering (IPO) on March 21, 2024 in New York City. 
Spencer Platt | Getty Images

Investment banks have been gearing up for a rebound.

Colin Stewart, the Global Head of Technology Equity Capital Markets at Morgan Stanley, told CNBC in April that “the IPO market’s back,” predicting that 10 to 15 tech companies might go public by the end of the year. Stewart cited high priced and well traded IPOs as “bod[ing] well for the future.” 

Stewart’s comments came after Reddit went public in March, becoming the first major social media company to hold an IPO since Pinterest in 2019. Astera Labs, which sells data center connectivity chips to cloud and artificial intelligence infrastructure companies, went public the same week, followed by data-management company Rubrik in April.

Prior to that, there was a brief jump in activity in September, when chip designer Arm, grocery delivery company Instacart and cloud software vendor Klaviyo debuted.

However, in comparison to the pre-2022 stretch, it’s been mostly quiet for new tech companies on Wall Street. Uncertainty surrounding the presidential election in November is pointing to a dearth of deals for the remainder of the year.

“We have the upcoming election, which is not helping the market in H2,” Athena Theodorou, head of software banking in the Europe region at UBS, told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” on Wednesday. “We do expect the market to remain muted in H2,” Theodorou said, though she said that in Europe the IPO market has started to show signs of life.

WATCH: IPO market is coming back in Europe

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