Is the herd of startup unicorns going to grow and thrive in 2016 or will the herd thin out from various economic constraints? With the number of anticipated technology IPOs down from prior years, the herd is definitely not procreating at such a breakneck speed, however adding another 100 or so companies to the herd isn’t exactly failure either.
Will Silicon Valley’s ‘unicorns’ gallop off a cliff in 2016?
by Phil Wickham, CEO of Kauffman Fellows for <a href="http://www.cnbc view publisher site.com/” target=”_blank”>CNBC
For most people, a unicorn is a mythical horse with a pointed horn in a flutter of fairy dust, but in Silicon Valley, it’s a pre-IPO start-up valued at $1 billion or more. If a collection of these beasts of the fairy dust variety is called a blessing, the proliferation of Silicon Valley unicorns is anything but, as more and more of then become “unicorpses.”
A “unicorpse” is venture capital parlance for an overvalued start-up, galloping into oblivion.
After years of easy monetary policy, Wall Street is awash with cash seeking yield. Pouring that cash into start-ups has driven billion dollar startup valuations as investors buy the vision that a nascent enterprise can build a dominant business and yield huge returns. It’s a compelling notion given the astronomical gains for investors in Google orFacebook before their IPOs.
Unfortunately, just like a unicorn, those gains can be a fantasy. Now, with so many investors chasing the same dream, we stand on what could very well be the cusp of a technology bubble in venture capital.
Bill Gurley, a partner at Benchmark Capital who has been calling this bubble for some time now, recently told the MIT Technology Review: “When these markets correct, they correct hard. There’s no soft landing in Silicon Valley.”
That raises the question: What happens to unicorns — and their backers — in 2016?
Unlike the catastrophic Nasdaq crash of 2000, this latest bubble will spare the retail investor, instead hitting venture-capital funds and their investors — family offices, mutual funds and pension funds that have wandered into choppier waters than they had imagined when they placed their bets.
The omens are everywhere. LoanDepot recently postponed its $2.6 billion IPO and Square’s IPO’s valuation was half of what it was said to be worth in its financing only a year ago.
Presently, 143 private companies are valued at more than $1 billion, with a total value of $508 billion, according to CB Insights, which tracks venture capital and angel investing. But the pipeline of 163 companies ready to go public is 25 percent below 2014’s level, according to Renaissance Capital. It’s almost 70 percent below the record of 480 IPOs in 1999, according to law firm WilmerHale.
Another harbinger of souring sentiment is …