Staying private sucks if you’re a tech company writes Felix Salmon in Fusion magazine.
If you’re giving away stock in lieu of wages to employees or taking early stage funding for equity, then listing, or selling to a larger business, makes sense as staff and investors need to see a return. It’s the unspoken truth of the Silicon Valley funding model.
The Silicon Valley model though doesn’t come without risks, investor Mark Cuban warns a valuation bubble greater than that of the Dot Com Boom has developed as angel investors and early stage venture capital firms have thrown money at startups after Facebook’s massive buyouts of Instagram and WhatsApp.
While Silicon Valley and the US tech market might have plenty of opportunities for buyouts and IPOs, most other places around the world don’t have the deep financial markets and the cashed up software companies to make similar exits possible for local startup businesses.
Again that difficulty in successfully funding exits shows that simply trying to copy the US tech industry model is probably not going to work for most places tying to building their own Silicon Valleys, although it seems China is about to try.
The other message is that the IPO or buyout route is not necessarily the right path for every business, as Salmon says: “Maybe the best solution is not to take any outside funding at all, and not to try to grow too fast.”
“Some family companies have been around for hundreds of years: if you own your own business, and you don’t get greedy, you can build a very pleasant life for yourself. You just won’t end up on any list of young billionaires.”