ELIAN D. ALVAREZ

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Will 2018 Mark the End of Initial Public Offerings?

Jan
18

2017 turned out to be a great year for technology-based IPOs (Initial Public Offerings) that were backed by venture capital.

So many names in a corporate world went public last year, including SendGrid, StitchFix, BlueApron, Cloudera, and Yext. In fact, one of the most successful IPOs in the last few years was Snapchat. In 2018, there are some potential firms that are likely to go public, which is great because the Dow and S&P 500 are at the record high.

 

Beginning of the End for IPOs?

However, dark clouds have started to form on a distant horizon regarding IPOs. Spotify will probably go for direct listing and bypass the bank underwriting to go public. On the other hand, blockchain technology is booming and has attracted many retail investors, especially the ones who are skeptical about the IPOs and the corruption in this sector. Similarly, SoftBank Vision Fund is also trying to raise as much private capital as possible to provide protection to firms from the devastating effect of vulture funds.

There is an increasing awareness that current IPO sector is a hub of corruption, wherein, only those people are benefiting from the firms growth cycle who know the ‘right people’. The retail investors, however, are on the losing end as they are getting sufficient returns. This growing awareness is not going to subside, especially when there is a constant increase viability of other options.

 

Robust Technology – An Alternative to Conventional IPO

The fall of IPOs has been predicted so many times in the past, but it hasn’t happened yet. Ten or so years back when Google went for a Dutch-style IPO, so many people anticipated that it could a soon-to-be-ending road for banks who want to run a roadshow for investors. Similarly, a few years ago, when the pipeline of initial offerings dried up, the same hype was created.

Despite all the noise, the IPO has continued to provide good business. Although, firms will continue to go public by trading shares or securities, they are undergoing certain changes. For example, conventional ways of big banks to charge a huge fee is going to be replaced by more effective alternatives. So many bankers have already begun to lose their jobs after the introduction of technology. Goldman Sachs has already built an application that manages the IPO process. These steps are being taken to enhance the efficiency of operations.

There are only a few who have anticipated that IPOs will get a support of ethereum tokens and the Dutch East India company. However, no one can deny the fact that IPOs are growing weaker day by day, and they won’t survive in the long run if drastic measures are not taken.

 

Spotify’s Direct Listing

The company has managed to secure around 70 million paying subscribers, but at the same time, its chief content officer has resigned. In addition to that, the company is also dealing with some lawsuits filed by the music labels, which can be very damaging in the future.

Despite all the ups and downs, the news has come to light that Spotify is planning to go public via the direct listing. By undergoing direct listing, the company will not issue any new shares nor will it raise any capital through the process. For IPOs, this arrangement can be very devastating as financial institutions like Goldman Sachs will become deprived of underwriting fees, whereas, institutional investors will lose an opportunity to buy IPO shares at a huge discount like they did in the past.

Although, a direct listing of Spotify will be a little bumpy, it doesn’t mean that the process will end in disaster. The rise of digital trading based on algorithms will help Spotify stabilize the price after analyzing the market. The process will be executed as fast as it does for other initial offerings.

 

Increasing Trend of ICOs

Another disruptive disaster expected to happen is the rising trend of ICOs. Initial coin offerings or ICOs are being considered as a replacement for VCs. The rush of initial coin offerings among startup companies has placed a big question mark on the existence of IPOs. ICO model might not be applicable to every company, but being a competitive threat to IPO, they do not necessarily have to apply to every firm.

All in all, IPO is facing back to back attacks; a direct public offering will dramatically reduce the fees involved in conventional IPO, whereas, ICO will be an effective tool for potential financial growth. These disruptive tools are definitely going to rule out the need to go public so as to achieve financial strength, which would eventually impact the long-term sustenance of IPOs.

Rising Trend of Initial Coin Offerings

Nov
09

According to a report by Mangrove Capital, 204 ICOs have made a return of about 1,320 percent.

At the same time, investment banks and hedge funds have shown increasing interest in the digital currency with over 55 crypto-specific hedge funds. Before diving deep into why investors are showing greater interest in cryptocurrency, let’s take a look at what ICO is.

 

What is ICO?

Unlike conventional financial system, ICO or Initial Coin Offering is an alternative and unconventional way of crowdfunding. It has enabled a number of successful firms and projects to get the finance to start their business. New businesses and startups around the globe are getting millions of dollars in funds by issuing digital coins. The rising trend of digital currency has made people both worried and excited.

In ICO, the coins bought by investors are for businesses and marketplaces that are not developed yet. By purchasing these coins, they make a bet that a firm or startup will end up becoming successful and as a result, the coin will increase in value.

In average it takes about six months or a year to raise money with conventional venture capital (VC) system, but it is different when it comes to ICOs. In this token crowdfunding, you get to have a large crowd of engaging supporters who want to see you succeed. Not only do they campaign for you, but they are also your early adopters.

 

Growing Trend of ICO

Startups have raised more than 2 billion dollars since the start of 2017. It is a huge amount of funding, given the fact that not many people knew about it a few years ago. Businesses are making money via this mode of funding faster than usual.

In April this year, Gnosis (prediction market for Ethereum) managed to raise 12 million dollars in just ten minutes. In June, Mozilla’s founder raised 35 million dollars by selling Basic Attention Tokens in under 30 seconds for his new web browser startup called ‘Brave’.

ICOs have become the name of the game as they have left the venture capital market behind and are the biggest source of funding. It is a great option for those companies that are pursuing the application of blockchain technology.

 

Concerns by the Regulators

Despite the increasing trends of ICOs, regulators have shown serious concerns. They are warning investors that it is a high-risk investment.

Although, some coins value has dramatically increased, a very high volatility cannot be ignored. Some have also considered it a ‘speculative boom’, but that did not stop investment banks and hedge funds from showing their interest by making an investment in cryptocurrencies and ICOs.

 

Reason behind the Increasing Interest of Institutional Investors in ICOs

The digital currency market has made massive profits in the past one year or so. Initially, institutional investors were curious about what this is all about, but they started getting a hang of it gradually and became less apprehensive and more interested in this alternative investment. It is a kind of chain reaction that started with the rising interest among venture capitalists and now institutional investors, including mutual funds, investment banks, and hedge funds are following their lead. They have shown growing interest and are making an effort to estimate and grab the opportunities in the cryptocurrency market.

The reason why they are more interested in the new and unconventional currency is that it promises a higher return as compared to market averages. According to a fintech analytics firm, there have been at least 55 cryptocurrency hedge funds and a former manager at Fortress, Mike Novogratz, has recently announced a plan to use 500 million dollars for a new digital currency hedge fund. Blockchain Capital also made an announcement of raising 150 million dollars; a part of this fund will be for cryptocurrencies.

 

Goldman Sachs’ Approval

Goldman Sachs is planning to set up a bitcoin trading desk, as they believe that institutional investors are interested in cryptocurrency more than ever. The firm has reported it to be ‘a major milestone’. They believe that the investors need an over-the-counter brokerage platform where they can sell or buy as much cryptocurrency as they want. Goldman Sachs is of the opinion that it can take up this role, but there will be other issues, including market infrastructure and serious concern by the regulators.

 

If, however, ICOs becomes regulated, it will change the way how businesses raise money and will also impact the venture capital market.

Angels going back to heaven

Dec
22

The global market is at its all times high and businesses are getting investments in abundance.

Angel investments have also stepped up their game. In the past few years, a number of deals took place where the investments from angel investors flooded in, for example, Reid Hoffman, who made an investment in Facebook and Flickr, whereas, Chris Sacca invested in Instagram and Twitter. You would find so many names behind the companies who made it big in a short period of time, such as Friendster, Yelp, Twitter, etc.

 

Business Cycles leading the Angel Cycle

Most of the startups in the tech-industry have been backed by contributions made by angel investors, but the question is:

How long will it last?

This question has been brewing for quite some time, and there is a reason behind it.

If you take a look at past three decades, you will find out that angel cycle followed the same pattern as a business cycle. With the boom and bust experienced by the business cycle, angels took exits and departed to safe haven from time to time. There has been a total of five distinct cycles over a period of the last thirty-one years, depicting the rise and fall of silicon valley’s angel investors.

The sine curve that keeps track of fluctuations in the angel cycle typically follows the sine curve that keeps track of ups and down in a wider business cycle. It shows that as angel investing begins to rise up, the remaining startup investment market would be going through a radical shift.

 

Rise of Angels in Past 5 Years

For the past six years, the size of an average investment made by angels grew almost sixty percent, and pre-money valuation has shown a growth of around twenty percent.

Angels have invested heavily in the valley, wherein, different groups of angels have infused a lot of cash as the rounds got bigger and bigger each time. For example, two years ago in 2014, an investment of more than $24 billion was made by angel investors.

As they were risky investments, they hardly took into account more than 10 percent of an angel’s portfolio. Most of these investment decisions were discretionary; this is the reason why appetite of these investors and available funds got exhausted due to uncertain market conditions.

 

If the Cycle is about to Mature?

As predicted by Bill Gurley, a venture capitalist in the Silicon Valley, the cycle is about to reach its maturity growth is given more value as compared to making profits. Regardless of whether it is happening, when it eventually happens, angel investors will become more cautious, wherein, some of them would wait for the market to go back to where it was prior to the fall, while others would simply pack up and leave.

 

History Repeats Itself

If you look back in the past, angel investors flee from the recession that occurred in the beginning of 1980s, only to enter the market again with the introduction of PCs and record high job opportunities coupled with the surge in the real estate market in San Francisco. Another downfall of angel cycle was observed with the economic recession of the 90s, as they made an even dramatic comeback later on with the growth of the dot – com bubble. Right after the bubble was burst in 2000, not only did they leave the tables once again, the investments turned out to be a failure as well.

They made another comeback after that, but escaped to safe havens when the real recession hit the market in 2007. Since then, the industry has experienced bullish trends, but no one knows when it will come to an end. However, the only certainty on the basis of past events is that it will come to an end.

 

If Time for Startups is Now?

If you have a startup company or planning to raise capital for funding your idea, it is better to raise capital now. Try to attract as much funds today as you can, while the market is experiencing a boom, because when the business cycle takes a shift, angels will take a step back. In times of good market conditions, business cycles are considered perpetual. What businesses tend to forget is, it is a cycle that goes through a series of surges and plunges. The global economy is not immune to the unavoidable macro events, as their occurrence gradually causes the shift in business cycles.