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Stop Caring About the 'Hot' IPO

Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange during Snapchat parent Snap Inc.'s initial public offering (IPO) in New York on Thursday, March 2, 2017. Photograph by Michael Nagle—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Enough! That’s the message a roundtable of venture capitalists and startup founders had for entrepreneurs obsessed with having what some people consider the attributes of a “hot” IPO, or initial public offering. The group spoke during a Tuesday lunch at Fortune’s Brainstorm Tech conference in Aspen, Colorado.

Greg Schott, CEO of MuleSoft, an enterprise software company that went public earlier this year, summed up the room’s sentiment. “Why are we so fixated on our pop?” he asked, referring to the bump in price some stocks see after they list on an exchange.

It’s bizarre, Schott said, that when IPO shares are accurately priced, some people consider them failures because they do not garner the same media attention and apparent demand. “I don’t blame the bankers,” he said. “I think it’s Silicon Valley’s need for the pop.”

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Lise Buyer, a partner at Class V Group, an advisory firm that consults on IPOs, countered this point. “The bankers are in part responsible,” she said. “They want to give a small amount of shares to all clients,” she said, a practice that pays dividends in commissions to the banks when a newly public company’s stock price increases upon a debut.

“People love the PR and press rollout but months later it doesn’t matter,” said one attendee.

“There’s no upside to over hyping your story earlier on,” said another. Instead, it’s best to save some product development or other news for the third, fourth, or fifth quarter, when there’s a need to show sustained business plans, the attendee advised.

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Too often, founders consider the IPO as the be-all end-all. “It’s not the exit. It’s what happens after that’s so much more important,” Buyer said.

“We are encouraging our companies more and more, earlier and earlier, to go through this [IPO] process,” said Dana Settle, managing partner at Greycroft Partners, a venture capital firm. “It forces them to think about themselves independently.”

In other words, getting a company acclimated to the idea that it will someday have to go it alone helps get its leadership team acclimated to a public market mindset early on. The strategy for private versus public companies can be very different: cash-burning, high-growth versus finely balancing costs against gains.

“A lot of people think its this big celebration and endpoint, but you still have to come in the next day,” said John Tuttle, global head of listings at New York Stock Exchange. “It’s a great milestone, but it’s not the finish line.”

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