DEEP FREEZE

The market for tech IPOs hasn’t been this awful since the Great Recession

The US market for tech IPOs has totally frozen over.

Zero Internet or tech companies went public on US exchanges in the first quarter of 2016. The last time that happened was in the first quarter of 2009, during the depths of the Great Recession, according to data from Dealogic.

Just two years ago, the picture looked quite different. In the second quarter of 2014, 24 tech companies went public at deal values totaling $8.5 billion. Another 10 companies debuted the following quarter, including Chinese e-commerce giant Alibaba, which set the record for deal size with its $25 billion IPO.

Startups began steering clear of IPOs last year, even as many of them continued to raise money at tremendous valuations. The billion-dollar startup club has grown to include more than 140 members, of which nearly 90 are based in the US. Uber is the biggest, with its $62.5 billion valuation, followed by Chinese electronics company Xiaomi ($46 billion) and Airbnb ($25.5 billion).

But lately a chill has also settled over financing in Silicon Valley. Startup funding fell 30% in the fourth quarter of 2015 from the one prior, to $27.7 billion. With capital tougher to come by, once-freewheeling startups are scrambling to get their books in order. They’re cutting lavish perks, laying off workers, and, in some cases, fundamentally reassessing their business models. If funding stays elusive, it could force cash-strapped startups to turn to IPOs as a source of new funds—whether the public markets are friendly or not.

The funny thing is that just the opposite is happening for US venture-capital firms, which are raising money at the fastest rate since the dot-com bubble at the turn of the millennium. For the first quarter of 2016, those firms secured about $13 billion in financing. Startups aren’t having anywhere near the IPO party they were back then.

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