2015 was the slowest year for tech IPOs since 2009, when the Great Recession was coming to an end. Only 23 tech companies braved the market, down 58 percent from 2014. Together, they raised $4.2 billion, less than one-seventh of the IPO proceeds in the previous year.
Of the companies that did go public, some fared better than others. Somewhat predictably, many of the Class of 2015 that showed a history of losses saw their stocks sink. Others that were profitable or could make a strong case for future profits did much better. Here is a roundup of some of the year’s more notable IPOs.
During the second quarter, Box reported $65.6 million in revenue and a net loss of 28 cents per share, beating analyst expectations. The following quarter, its loss stayed at 28 cents per share, while revenue grew to $73.5 million. Though investors may have been initially optimistic about Box, the downward trend indicates larger problems with the business.
Google and Amazon are expanding into file storage and sharing, driving down prices. In March, Amazon gave its users access to unlimited storage for $11.99 a year. Google and Dropbox charge $10 a month for a terabyte of storage. Following those moves, Box’s share price dropped as low as $10.93 a share in October, although it’s since recovered to around $14 a share.
Still, Box’s IPO may have been well timed in some ways. Box raised $175 million to invest in new business models. If competitor Dropbox were to go public in 2016, investors could use Box’s post-IPO performance as a guideline for determining its market value. Dropbox was valued at $10 billion when it raised its last round of private funding.
Long known as a marketplace for crafters and artisans, Etsy began trading on Nasdaq in April at $31 a share, nearly double its offering price. In 2005, Rob Kalin, Chris Maguire, and Haim Schoppik founded Etsy in a Brooklyn apartment to create a platform for makers to sell their goods internationally.
Etsy’s first two years were an enthusiastic hustle. By 2007, the company had 450,000 registered sellers, $26 million in annual revenue, and $3 million in investor funding. Soon after, the company started to fray. Maguire and Schoppik left the following year, citing concerns that Kalin was mismanaging his tasks as CEO.
When Kalin decided to step away from his day-to-day duties as CEO, Maria Thomas stepped into the role. She in turn hired Chad Dickerson as the company’s chief technology officer. After Thomas departed in 2009, Kalin briefly returned to Etsy’s helm before Dickerson took over as chief executive.
Since Etsy’s executive shuffle, the company has seen an upswing. In 2013, gross merchandise volume grew from $895 million to $1.34 billion. In 2014, sales jumped again to $1.93 billion, bringing in $195.6 million in revenue,
Etsy has faced a number of challenges since going public: competition from Amazon, allegations of counterfeit goods, a backlash among sellers against the inclusion of manufactured goods on the platform. The stock was recently trading at $8.62 a share – 46 percent below its offering price.
This past May, Canadian startup Shopify began trading on the NYSE at $28 a share, a significant pop above its $17 offering price.
An ecommerce platform, Shopify helps retailers and other merchants sell their goods online. Its revenue growth has been impressive, rising from $50.3 million in 2013 to more than $100 million in 2014. Last year it posted a $22.5 million net loss and expects a loss between $18.5 and 19.5 million for 2015.
The company competes with Bigcommerce, Volusion, Magento, Amazon Webstore, and to a certain extent Square, among other ecommerce platform providers. But none of them appear to have an overwhelming share of the market. Since going public, Shopify’s stock price has ping-ponged between $25 and $40 per share. Currently it trades around $25 a share.
Fitbit has proven to be one of the most successful tech IPOs of 2015. The fitness wearable company’s stock listed on the New York Stock Exchange in June with a price of $20 per share — a dollar more than the top of its expected range — indicating strong demand. In the days following its IPO, Fitbit stock continued to climb, reaching as high as $51.90 in early August.
Fitbit’s S-1 filing surprised many by reporting a net profit of $131.8 million in 2014. It also showed sales tripling from $271.1 million in 2013 to $745.4 million the following year. In its first earnings report as a publicly traded company, Fitbit impressed investors with earnings of 21 cents per share and revenue of $400 million — way above expectations.
Despite these numbers, Fitbit’s stock price slumped later on, hovering around $30 a share in the final weeks of the year. That’s mainly due to concerns about the Apple Watch, which is seen as Fitbit’s main competitor. Still, some investors are bullish on Fitbit and expect the stock to soar in 2016.
The mother of the mobile card reader, Square debuted on the New York Stock Exchange in November. The IPO was initially priced at $9 a share — below its expected range of $11 a share and $13 a share — then popped to $13.07 at the end of its first day of trading.
Square emerged in 2009 as a project of Jack Dorsey — a Twitter co-founder with no practical experience in the financial industry. The Square Reader allowed merchants of any size to accept credit cards using a smartphone and sent the payments industry scrambling to compete. In 2014, its revenue jumped 54 percent to $850 million.
But PayPal, Amazon, Etsy, and others have caught up, offering mobile dongles of their own. Square handles relatively low payment volumes. In 2014, the company reported gross payment volume of $23.8 billion. By contrast PayPal, which also went public this year following its split with eBay, sees about $235 billion annually.
Square also has a food-delivery service and provides back-office software for managing appointments, invoicing, inventory, and an online store. Though a majority of these services are free, a few of its most recent offerings like cash advances, Square Capital, and its payroll service provide additional streams of revenue.
Square’s dual focus on business services and payments might be a winning combination, but investors aren’t so sure. In addition to competition, there’s uncertainty around the end of the company’s lock-up period. If Square insiders flood the market when the lockup expires next year, it could send Square’s stock price lower.
The company’s stock price is currently hovering around $12 a share.
After an embarrassing little road bump, Match Group’s debuted at $12 a share in November, pushing the company’s valuation above $2.9 billion.
The company is home to some of the most well-known dating platforms, including OkCupid, Tinder, and Match.com. In total, it owns 45 such sites. Match Group has a base of 59 million users, 8 percent of whom pay for the pleasure.
Since going public, Match’s stock has held steady between $13 a share and $15 a share. Some analysts are feeling solid about its potential performance. Wells Fargo says that it expects Match’s share price to increase to between $16-$18 a share in the next year.
That’s all for 2015. Now we’re looking ahead to the IPO market of 2016. The drought in tech offerings may continue into the new year, or venture investors looking for exits could nudge more of their portfolio companies into the public market. Much will depend, of course, on the health of the overall financial markets and the global economy.