Why Hasn’t NYC Produced Many Tech IPOs?

Jeff Bussgang asks an interesting question on his blog.

He suggests that the lack of NYC tech IPOs compared to Boston is a result of:

  • The IPO culture hasn’t fully permeated NYC?  There are only very few public technology companies based in NYC:  I count AOL as the only one with > $1 billion market capitalization, whereas Boston has 30-35 innovation economy companies with greater than > $1 billion market capitalization.  Perhaps Boston CEOs, CFOs and boards feel more pressure to go public sooner and/or are comfortable with the IPO process because they community has done it so many times.  Honestly, this theory doesn’t totally resonate with me as NYC is the heart of Wall Street – all the relevant bankers, accountants and advisors are there.  If any technology hub can build a strong middle market public company ecosystem, it should be NYC.
  • NYC’s tech sectors are out of favor with public markets?  This theory suggests that the sectors that NY is particularly strong in – consumer, advertising technology, media – are out of favor for some reason.  Perhaps the poor performance of the Facebook IPO soured Wall Street on the consumer sector and advertising-based business models?  But then why have consumer plays like Boston-based Kayak, TripAdvisor and Zipcar done so well?  As for the adtech sector, why did DC-based Millenial Media, a mobile advertising network, have such a strong public offering if the sector is out of favor?  Again, I’m not sure this theory holds water.
  • NYC companies are more sizzle than steak?  This theory is that because NYC companies are so heavily covered in the mainstream media, they are perceived to be ahead of where they really are in terms of actual business progress.  E-commerce companies like Etsy, Gilt Group and Rent the Runway get a lot of ink compared to, say, Boston-based Wayfair and RueLaLa.  But if you objectively examined their financials in terms of actual revenue scale and profitability, who is really closer to being ready to file their S-1?  This theory resonates somewhat with me.  For example, there is no TechCrunch reporter in Boston, but a number in New York and Business Insider is a strong local publication that does a nice job cheerleading for the local sector.

I would agree with all of that. Plus as Shai Goldman points out in the comments, time is also a factor:

Hi Jeff, you are missing another reason why NYC hasn't had many IPOs as compared to Boston. Many of the NYC companies that are doing well were started in 2007 or later, so it will take a few more years before they are IPO ready. The Boston IPOs that were stated in this post were started before 2007 I believe. You also forgot to mention Admeld (NYC company) which was a $400M acquisition by Google in June 2011.

I responded in the comments with this:

i think it's all of the above (including Shaig's comment about time)

NYC is a trader town. people like to trade stocks not hold stocks. so what Buddy did is more in line with how NYC folks think. Boston seems to have a long standing culture of building large public companies, like Silicon Valley.

that said, i think we have a couple NYC based companies that will choose the IPO route in the next few years. we are not in a hurry nor are they.

To me this is all about the decades it takes to build a lasting startup community. Boston has been at it since the end of World War II. Silicon Valley has been at it since the 1960s. NYC has been at it since the mid 90s. We will get there. I see it in our portfolio and all around NYC these days.

And while we are talking about Jeff's blog, let's all encourage him to get Disqus on there. He writes good stuff and I am sure he'd get more discussion with a modern comment system.