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Bad news for unicorns: The IPO market just had its worst quarter in 6 years

March 29, 2022, 3:21 PM UTC

For any company looking to go public, the landscape is looking bleak.

It’s been the slowest few weeks the IPO market has seen in six years—with 18 companies raising a mere $2.1 billion. That’s about 95% less capital than they had raised this time last year, according to a new report from Renaissance Capital, an IPO research and ETF company. One public offering—private equity firm TPG—reeled in nearly half of all those proceeds. Only seven companies raised more than $50 million.

The SPAC market is no different. Pricing dropped by nearly 70%, per Renaissance Capital. Withdrawals, redemptions, and merger terminations are on the rise.

“The near-term outlook for the IPO market is foggy heading into the second quarter, though one thing is clear: recent IPO returns and risk appetite will need to rebound before activity resumes,” the report reads.

How did we get here after 2021’s IPO boom? For one, the public markets are having a really bad year. While the Nasdaq has recovered from its mid-March lows, it’s still down more than 8% from January as of this morning. The year itself has been incredibly bumpy—making it harder than usual to predict what direction stocks may swing next. Most companies aren’t going to want to list shares when they’re forced to sell them at a discount.

Let’s be clear: Not all stocks were doing well in 2021, anyways. Over the years, indices like the Nasdaq or the S&P 500 have become dominated by large-cap tech stocks, which helps explain the overwhelming disconnect we saw in 2020 between the performance of the public markets and the broader economy. Even as thousands of companies lined up to secure federal aid or were forced to close their doors, the Nasdaq was soaring to new heights.

And it’s for this exact same reason that the broader indices have taken a nosedive in 2022: Tech stocks are suddenly doing, well, really badly. There could be a host of reasons for this, including concerns over Russia lodging war in Ukraine or sky-high inflation, but the tech sector is down nearly 12% from January. It’s a big enough blow that grocery unicorn Instacart decided to slash its valuation by nearly 40% to better align itself with public competitors and give an edge to its employee stock plan. A slew of companies that had been readying themselves to go public have now opted to wait things out on the sidelines.

There are, of course, other macroeconomic factors at play here. The Fed finally began its long-awaited process of lifting interest rates. That means it’s getting more expensive for companies to borrow money. It also means that limited partners will likely turn their attention to other, less risky asset classes, as research indicates. Gradient Ventures general partner Darian Shirazi shared on Twitter a warning he had emailed founders he works with: It’s going to get harder to raise capital at any price.

Add to all this: Businesses are having to spend more on labor to keep their employees put, with workers quitting en masse. Supply chain issues have forced many companies to either lift prices, trim returns, or both.

The only thing that seems to be going well is that the U.S. is, for now, relatively open for business again. But I’ve stopped holding my breath.

Sign of desperation… It’s hard to convince a company to go through with a SPAC merger in today’s market. With institutional investors redeeming warrants at high rates (think 90% in February), the terms are simply not great, which you can read more about in one of my February newsletters here. Bankers have decided to take a pay cut to make things a little more enticing. It’s what the Financial Times refers to as a “sign of the desperation” in the current market. If bankers are willingly taking less money to get a deal done, you know things are bad.

See you tomorrow,

Jessica Mathews
Twitter: @jessicakmathews
Email: jessica.mathews@fortune.com
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Jackson Fordyce curated the deals section of today’s newsletter.

VENTURE DEALS

- ConcertAI, a Cambridge, Mass.-based data solutions company for life sciences and health care, raised $150 million in Series C funding from Sixth Street Partners.

- Brightline, a Palo Alto, Calif.-based virtual behavioral-health service to children and their families, raised $105 million in funding led by KKR and was joined by investors including GV, Optum Ventures, Oak HC/FT Partners, Threshold Ventures, and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts.

- Yokoy Group, a Zurich-based expense management platform, raised $80 million in Series B funding led by Sequoia Capital and was joined by investors including Speedinvest, Visionaries Club, Zinal Growth, Balderton Capital, Six FinTech Ventures, Left Lane, Swisscom Ventures, and others. 

- HackerRank, a Mountain View, Calif.-based hiring platform for developers, raised $60 million in Series D funding led by Susquehanna Growth Equity and was joined by investors including JMI, Khosla Ventures, Randstad Innovation Fund, and Recruit Holdings

- Vivriti Capital, a Chennai, India-based credit investment platform, raised $55 million in Series C funding from investors including Creation Investments Capital Management and Lightrock India.

- Poplar Homes, a Cupertino, Calif.-based property management company for single-family rental investors, raised $53 million in Series B funding led by LL Funds and was joined by investors including Crescent Cove Advisors, AGNC mortgage REIT, computer scientist Jeff Dean, angel investor Zain Jaffer, and others.

- LambdaTest, a San Francisco-based cloud-based test orchestration platform, raised $45 million in funding led by Premji Invest and was joined by investors including Sequoia Capital India, Telstra Ventures, Blume Ventures, Leo Capital, and ex-CEO and board member of Tricentis Sandeep Johri

- nDreams, a Farmborough, U.K.-based virtual reality developer and publisher, raised $35 million in funding from Aonic Group

- Electric, a New York-based I.T. solutions provider, raised $20 million in Series D-1 funding from investors including Harmonic Growth Partners, GGV Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Greenspring Associates, and others.

- Sourceful, a Manchester, U.K.-based business sourcing platform, raised $20 million in Series A funding led by Index Ventures and was joined by investors including Coatue and Eka Ventures

- ArK Kapital, a Stockholm-based predictive fintech platform for businesses, raised €15 million ($16.7 million) in seed funding led by LocalGlobe and was joined by investors including Creandum and angel investors. 

- Equi, a remote-based alternative investment platform operator, raised $10 million in seed funding from investors including Foundation Capital, Hustle Fund, Montage Ventures, F7 Ventures, Gaingels, and Calm Ventures

- TEAL, a Seattle-based company that connects devices to cellular networks, raised $10.8 million in Series A-1 funding from investors including StageDotO Ventures, Stormbreaker Ventures, and Capital Eleven.

- Kadmos, a Berlin-based salary payments platform for migrant workers, raised €8.3M ($9.17 million) in funding led by Addition and was joined by investors including Atlantic Labs and others. 

- Brain Space, a Tel Aviv-based brain-mapping infrastructure startup, raised $8.5 million in seed funding led by Mangrove Capital Partners

- Citylitics, a Toronto-based planned infrastructure investments platform, raised $5 million in Series A funding co-led by Dallas Venture Capital and Cerium Technology Ventures and was joined by investors including Klister and GCI.

- Treeswift, a Philadelphia, Pa.-based data-based forest monitoring system, raised $4.8 million in seed funding led by Pathbreaker Ventures and was joined by investors including Crosslink Capital, TenOneTen Ventures, Contour Venture Partners, Boom Capital Ventures, Yes VC, Susa Ventures, Draft Ventures, Anorak Ventures, S7 Ventures, Awesome People Ventures, Switch Ventures, Convective Capital, and Dorm Room Fund.

- Effectiv, a San Francisco-based fraud and risk management platform, raised $4 million in seed funding led by Accel and was joined by REV and others.

- Outgo, a Seattle-based banking solution for freight carriers, raised $3.4 million in funding led by Neo and PSL Ventures and was joined by investors including Bezos Expeditions, Convoy CEO Dan Lewis, Uber Eats Founder Jason Droege, Simon Data CEO Jason Davis, and others.

- Klar, a Munich-based business intelligence platform for SME, raised €2.3 million ($2.56 million) in seed funding led by Cherry Ventures and was joined by angel investors including Benedikt Sauter (Xentral), Moritz Weisbrodt (Alaiko), Malte Horeyseck (SellerX), Samir El-Sabini (Juni), Benjamin Kremer (YFood), the founders of Moss, DTC Ventures, and OMR.

- Fisher Wallace Laboratories, a New York-based prescription wearable technology developer, raised $2.5 million in funding led by SHUFL Capital.

- Apiwiz, a Bellevue, Wash.-based API lifecycle management platform, raised $2 million in seed funding from VeeAR founder and CEO Raj Khaware

- DFlow, a protocol for decentralized order flow markets, raised $2 million in seed funding co-led by Multicoin Capital and Framework Ventures and was joined by investors including Cumberland, Parataxis Capital, and PetRock Capital.

PRIVATE EQUITY

- Banneker Partners acquired a majority stake in Eyelit, an Ontario and Frisco,Texas-based manufacturing execution software company. Financial terms were not disclosed.  

EXITS

- Emeria acquired FirstPort, a New Milton, U.K.-based residential property services company, from Equistone Partners Europe Limited. Financial terms were not disclosed.

OTHER

- UnitedHealth Group agreed to acquire LHC Group, a Lafayette, La.-based home-health provider, for about $5.4 billion

- Celonis acquired Process Analytics Factory, a Darmstadt, Germany-based data and process mining startup, for $100 million.  

- iCIMS acquired Candidate.ID, a Glasgow-based marketing automation software for the hiring process. Financial terms were not disclosed. 

IPOS 

- AIG, a New York-based finance and insurance company, filed for an IPO for its life and retirement arm, which will be named Corebridge after going public. A deal could value the life and retirement arm at $29 billion, according to Bloomberg. 

SPAC

- Starry Internet, a Boston-based wireless technology developer and internet service provider, agreed to go public on the NYSE via a merger with Firstmark Horizon Acquisition Corp., a SPAC. A deal would value the company at $1.76 billion.

FUNDS + FUNDS OF FUNDS

- Yellow Wood Partners, a Boston-based private equity firm, raised $750 million for a new fund focused on consumer brands and companies.

PEOPLE

- Base10, a San Francisco-based venture capital firm, hired Iñigo Garcia Gordobil as head of investor relations. Formerly, he was with QIC

Correction: From yesterday's newsletter, a SucceedSmart representative later said that Tau Ventures did not join its funding round.

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