So far this has been a challenging year for companies hoping to go public. But it has been even rougher on venture capitalists who were hoping to get a big payday from such an offering.
In the second quarter of this year not a single company backed by venture capitalists has gone public. It is the first time that has happened since 1978, according to a venture capital industry group. General weaknesses in the financial markets have kept many companies from taking the plunge. But venture capitalists say they have started to back technologies like alternative energy that take relatively long to gestate before they are ready for the public market.
Some other venture capitalists say the industry is struggling to find its direction and has never fully recovered from the dot-com bust.
That may come as little surprise to the well-heeled individuals and institutions that give their money to venture capitalists seeking big returns. Some of these investors have criticized venture capitalists for failing to provide substantial returns on a broad basis since 2000.
Public offerings serve a critical role for venture capitalists by giving them a way to sell, at huge profits, stakes in the start-up companies they invest in and build. So the offering drought is being taken very seriously by the venture capital industry. The National Venture Capital Association, an industry group, said it planned to discuss the issue on Tuesday in a media blitz on television news outlets.
“It’s a big story,” said Emily Mendell, a spokeswoman for the group. She declined to discuss the problem further, saying that the industry would release its official analysis on Tuesday, after the end of the quarter.
Nancy Pfund, a veteran venture capitalist with DBL Investors in San Francisco, said the absence of venture-backed offerings in the quarter was surprising, but the reasons behind it were not hard to understand.