Is Twitter the end?

Oct 04, 2013

Dan Primack was a senior editor at Fortune from 2010 to 2016. He was also the author of Term Sheet, Fortune's daily newsletter about deals and dealmakers.

FORTUNE -- Twitter is now four or five weeks away from going public. It will be a major event on both Market Street and Wall Street, despite some of this morning's naysayers. And that's going to be it for a long, long time.

From my perspective, Twitter is one of five consumer-facing Internet juggernauts that came of age in the midst of America's financial crisis. The other four -- Facebook (fb), LinkedIn (lnkd), Groupon  (grpn) and Zynga (znga) -- already priced IPOs, albeit with different aftermarket results.  If you want to be generous, throw Pandora (p), Yelp (yelp) and Zillow (z) into the mix.

But once Twitter goes public, I don't see another consumer-facing tech giant on the IPO horizon for quite some time. Or at least not one that passes the "Does my mother know about this company?" test. Both Box and Dropbox will raise lots of money from the public markets next year, but the average American will pay as little attention to these as they did to WorkDay (wday).

There are plenty of companies that we once thought would be part of the next consumer-facing wave, including Foursquare and Quora. But it isn't quite working out that way. AirBNB and Spotify? Perhaps, but not in 2014. That's probably also true for Uber, although it would have better odds. And Evernote seems intent on removing itself from the conversation.

On the surface, this only should matter to venture capitalists and bankers. What I wonder, however, is if it will have some sort of broader ripple effect in the entrepreneurial ecosystem.

In other words: Does a prolonged lack of high-profile tech IPOs decrease young technologist interest in launching new companies (as opposed to going to work for established ones)? Does it even mildly stem the flow of talent into Silicon Valley (yes, I know that neither Groupon nor Zillow are based there)? I've never met anyone who says they moved to Palo Alto because of The Social Network, but the influence of that film and its subject's real-life cohort have no doubt been influential. Enterprise tech successes are no doubt impressive (and arguably better businesses), but they don't necessarily stir the same type of passions.

So what we know is that this is the end. What we don't know is what follows.

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