Unicorn on hilltop
Unicorn on hilltop Lucy von Held — Getty Images/Blend Images

Don’t Expect Unicorn IPOs to Make a Comeback Any Time Soon

Dec 28, 2016

Initial public offerings for unicorns—private companies with valuations of at least $1 billion—have been rare this year. Cloud communications startup Twilio, launched its IPO in June; data center hardware maker Nutanix in September; and business software company Coupa soon thereafter.

But for other notable unicorns like security firm Palantir, Uber, and Snapchat—nothing yet.

And it doesn't look like the push for tech IPOs will pick up much any time soon, a perception reinforced by a new survey by Sharespost, a San Francisco company that tracks data about private companies and helps them trade their shares.

Nearly two-thirds (or 65%) of the 600 investors responding say they expect to see maybe 10 unicorn IPOs over the next 18 months. That's hardly a groundswell, but, as Sharespost suggest, it is in line with historical trends.

Those findings suggest there will be about two $1 billion tech IPOs per quarter, with results varying a tad based on type of investor responding. For example, institutional investors who focus on public companies are marginally more optimistic, putting total expected IPOs in the next 18 months at 11, while venture capital and private equity-focused respondents think nine is a more likely number.

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When asked which of 15 tech categories they saw as providing the best growth opportunities going forward, the winners across all investor subgroups were: big data/analytics, security software, virtual reality/augmented reality, financial tech, and wearable devices.

In addition, Sharespost noted that all investment groups surveyed saw better long-term growth potential in enterprise software as opposed to consumer mobile or web/Internet companies.

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This was somewhat surprising because three out of five of the most valuable public companies—Google (goog), Amazon (amzn), and Facebook (fb)—are lumped into the Web/internet category. Just one—Microsoft (msft)—is perceived as an enterprise software company.

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