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Best first quarter in years, with Facebook around the corner.

It’s time to throw another shovelful of dirt on the notion of an “IPO crisis” for emerging companies.

20 venture capital-backed companies went public on U.S. exchanges during the first quarter, which is the highest Q1 number of such issuers since the beginning of 2000. They raised around $1.63 billion, which is the highest first-quarter tally since Q1 2007. The combined post-offering value was approximately $9.5 billion.

The quarter’s largest VC-backed IPO was for ExactTarget (ET), an Indianapolis-based maker of email marketing software, which last week raised $161.5 million by pricing 8.5 million common shares at $19 a piece (it opened trading today at $26.49). It was followed by Millennial Media (MM), a  Baltimore-based mobile advertising platform that on Wednesday night raised $133 million by pricing 10.2 million shares at $13 per share (it opened today at $25.58).

Most of the quarter’s IPOs were for information technology companies, but there also were several life sciences and cleantech companies in the mix. The largest of the non-IT bunch was Cambridge, Mass.-based oncology drug company Merrimack Pharmaceuticals (MACK), which raised $100 million earlier this week.

The only real negative for the quarter was that it didn’t feature a blockbuster IPO, like LinkedIn (MACK), Groupon (GRPN) or Zynga (ZNGA). Expect that to be rectified in Q2, when Facebook hits the public markets. We also could begin to see a slew of new issuance from small-cap companies, thanks to recent JOBS Act legislation.

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