Disclaimer: my prediction of IPOs is about 50/50 in general so, whatever you choose to take from this piece, please do not run out and start placing bets based on my opinion.
This time last year, I expected the end of 2016 to be very different to how it actually was. I have seen a few trends in the tech space that I saw a few times when the bubble was building but have also got it very wrong on a couple of points, timing-wise at least. I did however make a few view points on the IPO market which were spot on. 2016 was a quiet year and I am guessing this is largely down to the changes the US is going through.
For quite some time I have been following a few of the tech champions out there who, shall we say, get a little more press than maybe the others. But I have been keeping an eye on those who don’t always hit the headlines.
One company I did take a look at last year was HotelTonight. I came across this company when arranging a trip to New York. I am the first to admit that the amazing Airbnb has made me never use a hotel again but I also have fond memories of getting great deals on hotels back in 2004/2005 with platforms such as laterooms.com. HotelTonight had a bit of a challenge last year after a quite extraordinary burn rate which resulted in cutting costs. Most CEOs don’t realise they need to adjust things until it's too late, so well done that CEO. Anyway, I hear on the grapevine that there is pressure for the company to IPO at the later stages of 2017. Good IPO or bad IPO?
On a similar note, I love Airbnb and if I was a hotel group, I would be seriously thinking this is my typewriter or Nokia moment. Airbnb has had some serious investment and you get the feeling the company has done some good housekeeping and is in a good position for an IPO in the multiple billions. I would put cash in them as a pretty safe long term bet.
On a different topic, how did we operate development teams before Slack came along? I am going to go out on a limb that Slack will file for IPO in 2017. CEO Stewart Butterfield came out end of last year saying that he didn’t feel Slack was ready for IPO until he had the internals of the business in a situation ready for a public offering, which is fantastic to hear when you compare that to the view people took back in the dotcom boom. However, I get the feeling from other information they will look to IPO and to be honest, looking at it objectively, I cannot blame them.
Now the big question is do we start having an IPO market with super crazy valuations and a lack of actual revenue to really match them? With that, a number of founders getting out while it's good plus VCs and investors getting greedy and the hype machine making everyone believe their own BS? This remains to be seen and my only piece of advice would be that if the machine really starts again, then get out on the start of the way up, as it could be 1999 all over again.