Tech IPOs — Hype vs. Reality
Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) generate massive amounts of attention from investors and media alike, especially for new and fast-rising companies in the technology sector.
On the surface, the attention is warranted. Some of the most well-known tech companies have built their profile by going public, including Facebook by raising $16 billion in 2012.
But when you peel away the hype and examine investor returns from tech IPOs more closely, the reality can leave a lot to be desired.
The Hype in Numbers
When it comes to the IPOs of companies beginning to sell shares on public stock exchanges, tech offerings have become synonymous with billion-dollar launches.
Given the sheer magnitude of IPOs based in the technology sector, it’s easy to understand why. Globally, the technology sector has regularly generated the most IPOs and highest proceeds, as shown in a recent report by Ernst & Young.
In 2019 alone, the world’s public markets saw 263 IPOs in the tech sector with total proceeds of $62.8 billion. That’s far ahead of the second-place healthcare sector, which saw 174 IPOs generate proceeds of $22.5 billion.
The discrepancy is more apparent in the U.S., according to data from Renaissance Capital. In fact, over the last five years, the tech sector has accounted for 23% of total U.S. IPOs and 34% of proceeds generated by U.S. IPOs.
The prevalence of tech is even more apparent when examining history’s largest IPOs. Of the 25 largest IPOs in U.S. history, 60% come from the technology and communication services sectors.
That list includes last year’s well-publicized IPOs for Uber ($8.1 billion) and Lyft ($2.3 billion), as well as a direct public offering from Slack ($7.4 billion). Soon the list might include Airbnb, which plans to list within the communication services sector instead of tech.
The Reality in Returns
But the proof, as they say, is in the pudding.
Uber and Lyft were two of 2019’s largest U.S. IPOs, but they also saw some of the poorest returns. Uber fell 33.4% from its IPO price at year end, while Lyft was down 35.7%.
And they were far from isolated incidents. Tech IPOs averaged a return of -4.6% last year, far behind the top sectors of consumer staples (led by Beyond Meat) and healthcare.
|Sector||Avg. IPO Return (2019)|
While last year was the first time tech IPOs have averaged a negative return in four years, analysis of the last 10 years confirms that tech IPOs have underperformed over the last decade.
A decade-long analysis from investment firm Janus Henderson demonstrated that U.S. tech IPOs start underperforming compared to the broad tech sector about 5-6 months after launching.
This dip likely corresponds to the expiry of an IPO’s lock-up period—the time that a company’s pre-IPO investors are able to sell their stock. By cashing in on strong early performance, investors flood the market and bring share prices down.
Interestingly, most gains for these IPOs tend to happen within the first day of trading. The median first-day performance for tech IPOs was a 21% increase over the offer price. That’s why the median first-year return for a tech IPO, excluding the first day of trading, is -19% when compared with the broader tech sector.
How to Make Money from Tech IPOs
So does that mean that investors should avoid tech IPOs? Not necessarily.
Longer-term analysis from the University of Florida’s Warrington College of Business shows that U.S. tech IPOs offer better returns than other sectors as long as investors get in at the offer price.
U.S. Tech IPO Returns from Offer Price
|Sector||Avg. Three-Year Return||Market-adjusted Return|
Even when adjusting for the broader market performance, tech IPOs have been solid in comparison to the offer price.
The challenge is that if investors are buying stock after that first day market bump, they may have already missed out on meaningful gains:
U.S. Tech IPO Returns from First Closing Price
|Sector||Avg. Three-Year Return||Market-adjusted Return|
So should investors shy away from tech IPOs unless they’re able to get in early?
Generally speaking, the analysis holds that new tech companies perform relatively well, but not better than the broader market once they’ve started trading.
However, in a world of billion-dollar unicorns, there are always exceptions to the rule. The University of Florida study found that tech companies with a base of over $100 million in sales before going public saw a market-adjusted three-year return of 24.4% from the first closing price.
If you can sift through the hype and properly analyze the right tech IPO to support, the reality can be rewarding.
Ranked: The Most Innovative Companies in 2021
In today’s fast-paced market, companies have to be innovative constantly. Here’s a look at the top 50 most innovative companies in 2021.
Ranked: the Top 50 Most Innovative Companies in 2021
This year has been rife with pandemic-induced changes that have shifted corporate priorities—and yet, innovation has remained a top concern among corporations worldwide.
Using data from the annual ranking done by Boston Consulting Group (BCG) using a poll of 1,600 global innovation professionals, this graphic ranks the top 50 most innovative companies in 2021.
We’ll dig into a few of the leading companies, along with their innovative practices, below.
Most Innovative Companies: A Breakdown of the Leaderboard
To create the top 50 innovative company ranking, BCG uses four variables:
- Global “Mindshare”: The number of votes from all innovation executives.
- Industry Peer Review: The number of votes from executives in a company’s industry.
- Industry Disruption: A diversity index to measure votes across industries.
- Value Creation: Total share return.
For the second year in a row, Apple claims the top spot on this list. Here’s a look at the full ranking for 2021:
|Company||Industry||HQ||Change from 2020|
|3||Amazon||Consumer Goods||🇺🇸 U.S.||--|
|5||Tesla||Transport & Energy||🇺🇸 U.S.||+6|
|6||Samsung||Technology||🇰🇷 South Korea||-1|
|9||Sony||Consumer Goods||🇯🇵 Japan||--|
|12||LG Electronics||Consumer Goods||🇰🇷 South Korea||+6|
|14||Alibaba||Consumer Goods||🇨🇳 China||-7|
|17||Cisco Systems||Technology||🇺🇸 U.S.||-5|
|18||Target||Consumer Goods||🇺🇸 U.S.||+4|
|19||HP Inc.||Technology||🇺🇸 U.S.||-4|
|20||Johnson & Johnson||Healthcare||🇺🇸 U.S.||+6|
|21||Toyota||Transport & Energy||🇯🇵 Japan||+20|
|23||Walmart||Consumer Goods||🇺🇸 U.S.||-10|
|24||Nike||Consumer Goods||🇺🇸 U.S.||-8|
|25||Lenovo||Technology||🇭🇰 Hong Kong SAR||Return|
|26||Tencent||Consumer Goods||🇨🇳 China||-12|
|27||Procter & Gamble||Consumer Goods||🇺🇸 U.S.||+12|
|28||Coca-Cola||Consumer Goods||🇺🇸 U.S.||+20|
|29||Abbott Labs||Healthcare||🇺🇸 U.S.||New|
|30||Bosch||Transport & Energy||🇩🇪 Germany||+3|
|32||Ikea||Consumer Goods||🇳🇱 Netherlands||Return|
|33||Fast Retailing||Consumer Goods||🇯🇵 Japan||Return|
|34||Adidas||Consumer Goods||🇩🇪 Germany||Return|
|35||Merck & Co.||Healthcare||🇺🇸 U.S.||Return|
|37||Ebay||Consumer Goods||🇺🇸 U.S.||Return|
|38||PepsiCo||Consumer Goods||🇺🇸 U.S.||Return|
|39||Hyundai||Transport & Energy||🇰🇷 South Korea||Return|
|41||Inditex||Consumer Goods||🇪🇸 Spain||Return|
|44||Disney||Media & Telecomms||🇺🇸 U.S.||Return|
|45||Mitsubishi||Transport & Energy||🇯🇵 Japan||New|
|46||Comcast||Media & Telecomms||🇺🇸 U.S.||New|
|47||GE||Transport & Energy||🇺🇸 U.S.||Return|
One company worth touching on is Pfizer, a returnee from previous years that ranked 10th in this year’s ranking. It’s no surprise that Pfizer made the list, considering its instrumental role in the fight against COVID-19. In partnership with BioNTech, Pfizer produced a COVID-19 vaccine in less than a year. This is impressive considering that, historically, vaccine development could take up to a decade to complete.
Pfizer is just one of four COVID-19 vaccine producers to appear on the list this year—Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, and AstraZeneca also made the cut.
Meanwhile, in a completely different industry, Toyota snagged the 21st spot on this year’s list, up 20 places compared to the rankings in the previous year. This massive jump can be signified by the company’s recent $400 million investment into a company set to build flying electric cars.
While we often think of R&D and innovation as being synonymous, the former is just one innovation technique that’s helped companies earn a spot on the list. Other companies have innovated in different ways, like streamlining processes to increase efficiency.
For instance, in 2021, Coca-Cola performed an analysis of their beverage portfolio and ended up cutting their brand list in half, from 400 to 200 global brands. This ability to pare down and pivot could be a reason behind its 20 rank increase from 2020.
Innovation Creates Value
As this year’s ranking indicates, innovation comes in many forms. But, while there’s no one-size-fits-all approach, there is one fairly consistent innovation trend—the link between innovation and value.
In fact, according to historical data from BCG, the correlation between value and innovation has grown even stronger over the last two decades.
For example, in 2020, a portfolio that was theoretically invested in BCG’s most innovative companies would have performed 17% better than the MSCI World Index—which wasn’t the case back in 2005.
And yet, despite innovation’s value, many companies can’t reap the benefits that innovation offers because they aren’t ready to scale their innovative practices.
The Innovation Readiness Gap
BCG uses several metrics to gauge a company’s “innovation readiness,” such as the strength of its talent and culture, its organization ecosystems, and its ability to track performance.
According to BCG’s analysis, only 20% of companies surveyed were ready to scale on innovation.
What’s holding companies back from reaching their innovation potential? The most significant gap seems to be in what BCG calls innovation practices—things like project management or the ability to execute an idea that’s both efficient and consistent with an overarching strategy.
To overcome this obstacle, BCG says companies need to foster a “one-team mentality” to increase interdepartmental collaboration and align team incentives, so everyone is working towards the same goal.
Timeline: Looking Back at 10 Years of Snapchat
A high level look at Snapchat’s 10-year history, including user growth, innovative product design, and the twists and turns along the way.
Looking Back at 10 Years of Snapchat
Over the years, many ideas have emerged from the dorm rooms at Stanford University, but not all of them evolve into billion dollar companies.
Snapchat, however, has beaten the odds. The company’s stock has recently shot up during the COVID-19 pandemic, a bright spot in a decade of highs and lows.
The graphic above is a high level look at Snapchat’s 10-year history, including user growth and financials. Snapchat’s wild ride from start-up to massive success is well documented, so we’ll focus on key elements of story—product design, the Facebook rivalry—and look at how the company is doing today now that the hype surrounding the app has died down.
But first, a quick history…
Setting the Scene
Snapchat originally began its life as a project called Picaboo in 2011.
Cofounders Evan Spiegel, Bobby Murphy, and Reggie Brown, who were attending Stanford, began building an app that could send photos that disappear after a certain amount of time.
Picaboo was renamed Snapchat in 2012, and by the end of that year, it was clear that the start-up was onto something big. A $13.5 million Series A financing in early 2013 helped fuel the company’s explosive growth.
Positive Momentum: Product Design
One of Snapchat’s biggest strengths over the years has been innovative product design. Many of the features we now see baked into every social app originated from Snapchat.
Here’s a quick rundown of Snapchat’s key feature and product development over the past decade.
Of all the features listed above, the concept of stories is perhaps the most significant contribution to the digital landscape. Disappearing short-form videos started off as a messaging tool, but ended up transforming the way people share their lives online.
As well, the forward-looking acquisition of Looksery in 2015, helped introduce millions of people to augmented reality (AR). AR continues to be a major growth driver for Snapchat today, as advertisers embrace the Lenses feature.
Negative Momentum: Facebook Rivalry
To Mark Zuckerberg’s credit, he realized the potential of Snapchat early.
When the company was only one year old, the Facebook CEO offered the Snapchat founders $60 million to buy the company. When they rejected the offer, Facebook almost immediately launched an app called Poke which was extremely similar to Snapchat’s offering. You’d be forgiven for not knowing what Poke is, as the app received a tepid reception and was quietly shut down in 2014.
“I hope you enjoy Poke.” – Mark Zuckerberg, in an email to Evan Spiegel
For Snapchat, Poke was a blessing in disguise as it brought even more attention to their growing app. Mark Zuckerberg, however, was not done trying to steal the company’s thunder. After offering $3 billion in cash to purchase Snapchat (the offer was once again rebuffed), Facebook copied a number of features from Snapchat and integrated them into Instagram.
Stories were a massive hit for Instagram, and Snapchat, which could not yet match Instagram’s scale, took a big hit. Growth began to slow noticeably after that Instagram update.
Snapchat hit rock bottom in 2018 after shares dropped below the $5 mark, and user growth had stalled out. As well, underwhelming sales of Snapchat’s Spectacles product garnered negative press and hurt the brand’s “cool factor”.
Today though, the situation looks much different. The app still has a strong market share with the younger demographic, and close to 300 million daily active users. Snapchat was one of the many digital companies to benefit from the COVID-19 pandemic (or, at least, the increase in digital content consumption), and the share price has rocketed to new highs. One other promising indicator is the company’s rising average revenue per user, or ARPU.
Of course, as the last 10 years have shown, success is not guaranteed. TikTok is still a significant competitor with a lot of momentum, and tastes can change quickly in the digital world. That said, there is a positive path forward for Snap Inc.
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