Chinese startups invade U.S. IPO market

December 11, 2010, 1:35 AM UTC

Want your startup to go public on a major U.S. exchange? Then perhaps you should consider moving to China.

Thomson Reuters data shows that 21 Chinese companies with VC backing have gone public in the U.S. so far this year, raising over $2.2 billion. That’s still well short of the 42 U.S.-based, VC-backed companies that have raised nearly $3.7 billion, but the gap is narrowing.

Between 2002 and 2009, there were just a total of 22 such offerings, compared to 329 for U.S. companies. This includes a solitary IPO last year for a VC-backed Chinese company, and none in 2008.

The latest examples came this week, with both DangDang (DANG) and YouKu (YOKU) pricing on the New York Stock Exchange. And just this morning came word that three more VC-backed Chinese companies are prepping new issues: RedBaby, Oak Pacific Interactive and Uni-Power Guaranty.

Part of this is simply catch-up, as Chinese copycats are mining local territory that already has been stripped clean in the U.S. For example, YouKu wouldn’t be public if it were based in Palo Alto and focused on an English-speaking, American market.

A larger part, however, is that U.S.-based venture capitalists are finally recognizing the fruits of their second labors. Remember, very few U.S. firms were doing Chinese deals before 2003 or 2004, and the typical VC-backed IPO is more than eight years old.

It reminds me of what Yankee Group founder Howard Anderson told a conference audience that VCs needed to accept losses to (1) Get a toehold in China, and (2) Accept that you’re probably going to lose money on initial investments, but that’s the price of future success.

He was correct in many cases, but now it seems like the future is beginning to arrive…