Yesterday there was a lot of online and cable news debate over the notion of an early-stage tech investment bubble, prompted by this blog post by Mark Cuban. More specifically, Cuban argued that today’s ‘bubble’ is worse than the 2000 bubble because this version involves so many individual investors plugging money into securities for which there is no liquidity.
From my perspective, it’s a bizarre argument. Of course I’ll stipulate that there was more liquidity for Pets.com shares in 2000 than there is for new stock in a 6-month-old mobile app (although there may be more liquidity for that mobile app stock today than there was for still-private Pets.com stock in 1999, but that’s beside the point).
The trouble for Cuban’s argument, however, is that the vast majority of people investing in those mobile apps should be able to afford possible losses, because they are accredited investors. Remember, equity crowdfunding rules have not yet been finalized. And even when (if?) equity crowdfunding is legalized, there are expected to be strict limits on the amount that unaccredited investors can shell out (at least per company). Compare this to 2000, when anyone could put their life savings in a specious public stock. How could it be worse to lose all of a $5k investment in an illiquid startup than $75k of a $100k investment in a liquid dotcom-era company?
It might have been more interesting to see Cuban make a more indirect argument, about how unaccredited investors can plow cash into mutual funds that are investing in pre-IPO startups at massive valuations. But, even there, such investments typically represent just a small portion of overall portfolio holdings. Cuban may ultimately be proven right that today’s tech valuations are even more inflated than were the tech valuations of 2000. But it won’t be small individual investors who bear the brunt of the fallout.
• Open question: During the Pao vs. Kleiner Perkins trial, there has been lots of talk about why certain people were or weren’t promoted to general partner. At one point, John Doerr explained to the jury that venture capital is an apprenticeship business.
It’s something I’ve heard ever since I began covering the VC market, but I’m also wondering if it’s beginning to be less true. It seems that many firms now hire new GPs who have strong operational backgrounds but no investment histories, as opposed to either promoting from within or pulling a junior staffer from a rival firm. Even KPCB, for example, has brought on two GPs within the past few years — Mike Abbott and Mary Meeker — who didn’t have past VC experience.
To be sure, there are plenty of counter-examples. And this likely is more about individual firm culture than anything else. But, my question for you, dear readers: Is venture capital still an apprenticeship business?
• Have a great weekend…
THE BIG DEAL
• Life Time Fitness (NYSE: LTM) is in “advanced talks” with potential private equity acquirers that include KSL Capital Partners, according to the WSJ. The Chanhassen, Minn.-based fitness chain has a current market cap of around $2.3 billion. Read more.
VENTURE CAPITAL DEALS
• Swiftype, a San Francisco-based hosted search solution, has raised $13 million in Series B funding led by New Enterprise Associates. www.swiftype.com
• Namely, a New York-based HR software platform, has raised $11 million in new VC funding. Matrix Partners led the round, and was joined by return backers True Ventures, Lerer Hippeau Ventures, Greenspring Global Partners and Vayner/RSE. www.namely.com
• Trucker Path, a San Jose, Calif.-based mobile app for truckers to find rest stops and other relevant facilities, has raised $1.5 million in funding from Renren Inc. Read more.
PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS
• Claxson, a multimedia company whose shareholders include HM Capital Partners, has acquired an undisclosed stake in Golfboost LLC, a Miami, Fla.-based developer of digital golf swing analysis technology. www.claxson.com
• MOD Pizza, a Seattle-based fast casual pizza chain, has held a first close of an undisclosed amount on a funding round that is expected to reach $40 million. PWP Equity led the round. www.modpizza.com
• Oak Street Health, a Chicago-based owner and operator of primary care centers for seniors, has raised an undisclosed amount of growth equity funding from Harbour Point Capital and Quantum Strategic Partners. www.oakstreethealth.com
• Winona Capital has acquired an equity stake in Fat Bran Toys, an Elk Horn, Neb.–based specialty and educational toy maker. No financial terms were disclosed. www.fatbraintoys.com
• Winter Brothers Waste Systems of Long Island Holdings LLC has raised $25.6 million in new equity funding led by Clairvest Group. Part of the proceeds were used to support the company’s acquisition of the Long Island operations of Progressive Waste Solutions (TSX: BIN). www.clairvest.com
• MaxPoint Interactive Inc., a Morrisville, N.C.-based provider of business intelligence and marketing automation software, raised $75 million in its IPO. The company priced 6.5 million shares at $11.50 per share (middle of offering range), for an initial market cap of approximately $294 million. It will trade on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol MXPT, while Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank served as lead underwriters. Shareholders include Trinity Ventures (32.3% pre-IPO stake), Madrona Venture Group (23.6%) and Performance Equity Management (16.3%). www.maxpoint.com
• Summit Therapeutics, a UK-based developer of therapies for muscular dystrophy and bacterial infections, raised $34 million in its IPO. The company priced 3.45 million shares at $9.90 per share (below expected range). It will trade on the Nasdaq under ticker symbol SMMT, with JMP Securities and Oppenheimer & Co. serving as lead underwriters. Summit Therapeutics also remains listed on the AIM under ticker symbol SUMM. www.summitplc.com
• Correction: Yesterday’s item on Etsy‘s IPO filing misstated the company’s historical revenue. The correct figures are $195.5 million for 2014 and $125 million for 2013.
• The Blackstone Group has hired Credit Suisse to explore a possible sale of AlliedBarton Security Services, according to Reuters. A sale could value the Conshohocken, Penn.–based security services provider at around $1.5 billion (including debt). Read more.
• Hubspot Inc. (NYSE: HUBS) has filed for a secondary public offering of 3.7 million shares. Most of the stock is being offered by insiders, although no specifics were disclosed. Existing shareholders include General Catalyst Partners (21.8% ownership stake), Sequoia Capital (8.3%) and Scale Venture Partners (5.5%). Hubspot shares closed trading yesterday at $39.44 per share, compared to its $25 per share IPO price last October. www.hubspot.com
• CBRE Group Inc. (NYSE: CBG) is in talks to acquire the global workforce solutions unit of Johnson Controls (NYSE: JCI) for more than $1 billion, according to Reuters. Read more.
• Digirad Corp. (Nasdaq: DRAD) has acquired MD Office Solutions Inc., a provider of mobile diagnostic imaging solutions in Northern California. No financial terms were disclosed. www.digirad.com
• FamilyMart Co Ltd. (Tokyo: 2028) is in merger talks with fellow Japanese convenience store chain operator UNY Group Holdings Co Ltd. (Tokyo: 8270), according to Reuters. Read more.
• OGSystems, a Chantilly, Va.-based provider of software systems development and integration for the U.S. defense and intelligence communities, has acquired Urban Robotics, a Portland, Ore.-based provider of airborne military intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance apps. No financial terms were disclosed. OGSystems shareholders include General Catalyst Partners. www.ogsystems.com
FIRMS & FUNDS
• Frontier Capital, a Charlotte-based private equity firm focused on lower middle-market software and tech-enabled business services companies, has closed its fourth fund with $390 million in capital commitments. www.frontiercapital.com
MOVING IN, UP, ON & OUT
• Scott Cutler is leaving The New York Stock Exchange, where he has served as head of listings since 2006. No word yet on his future plans. Cutler will be succeeded by Dealogic executive Garvis Toler III. www.nyse.com
• Ken Spain has stepped down as VP of public affairs and communications with the Private Equity Growth Capital Council. His next job will be managing director of external relations with Koch Industries. www.pegcc.org
• Derek Zanutto has quietly stepped down as a vice president with TPG Capital, in order to join Hellman & Friedman. www.hf.com
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