Technology Company Issues

Some of the best known names in technology were able to conduct initial public offerings during 2011. These included technology companies like LinkedIn, Pandora, Groupon, Zillow, Demand Media and others. This will likely continue tomorrow as one of the most highly anticipated technology company offerings of the year (Zynga, a developer of online games for Facebook) is scheduled to price its IPO tonight.

The markets remained fairly receptive to these technology IPOs throughout 2011. This is impressive given the general poor state of the capital markets and the high degree of skepticism that greeted many transactions in other industries. Companies from many other industries found themselves either shut out of the capital markets or unable to easily access capital.

Many of these high profile technology companies have been able to maintain or show an increase from their IPO price. Based on recent information, LinkedIn, Groupon and Zillow are all trading well above their IPO prices. This is again impressive given the overall status of the capital markets. Not all technology companies have been successful in the public arena, however, as Pandora, Demand Media and others currently trade well below their IPO prices. The general feeling among investors seems to be that they are satisfied with most of these technology companies for now, but there is also an undercurrent of skepticism.

Of course, the most highly anticipated technology IPO (and one of the most highly anticipated IPOs in history) may occur in 2012 if Facebook elects to proceed with its offering. There is no way to tell if this will happen, but there have been an increasing number of signs that Facebook is going in this direction.

All of these public technology companies face some serious fundamental questions and issues, and the resolution of these questions and issues will determine the long-term success or failure of these technology companies as public entities. The questions surrounding these companies mainly relate to basic business issues such as the long-term viability of their business models and their ability to establish and maintain sustainable and profitable business operations over time. Even though investors
Continue Reading

The economic events of recent years have hit small companies particularly hard. While virtually everyone has suffered, small companies endured a double hit as they experienced substantial challenges to sales and profitability as well as a widespread inability to raise capital. This inability to raise capital was made worse by these economic events, but the current capital raising regulatory structure was also a major contributing factor. Fortunately these negative events appear to have generated some potential changes in the small company capital raising arena that could be very beneficial. These changes still face a number of challenges, but momentum appears to be building in their favor.

Small companies have historically faced a number of significant regulatory challenges and compliance requirements when raising capital. Some of these problems are the result of outdated compliance requirements that do not reflect the current small company situation. Other problems have resulted from “one size fits all” compliance requirements that do not contemplate the special needs of small companies and the economic restrictions under which many of them operate. The net result has been that small companies have been restricted in many situations in their ability to raise capital. This has been a particular problem in connection with public securities offerings by small companies.

In response to these concerns, several legislators in both the House and the Senate have submitted legislative proposals that are designed to ease the regulatory burdens on small companies in the capital raising process and to ensure that such regulatory burdens correctly reflect small companies’ situations. One significant proposal would increase the offering limits for Regulation A offerings from the current $5 million level to $50 million. Regulation A has been available as an exemption from registration under the Securities Act of 1933 for a long time, but historically it has not been used very often. This is probably primarily due to the relatively low offering limit. Regulation A contains some fairly substantial benefits for issuers, including the ability to solicit indications of potential interest from investors before an offering by use of several forms of media (although state laws may have an impact here). A substantially increased upper limit on Regulation A offerings could be a significant advantage to small companies’ capital raising efforts.
Continue Reading

We have recently experienced some of the worst financial and economic conditions that we (hopefully) will see in our lifetimes. Most of us have been touched personally by these conditions. It appears that economic and financial conditions will continue to get better, but these situations have created some ongoing challenges that will continue to face early stage companies and entrepreneurs even under better conditions. 

The apparent changes in the traditional roles of the venture capital, private equity and angel investing models are some of the changes that will impact early stage companies. This appears to be the “new normal” for the financing of early stage companies.  Financing from venture capital and angel investor sources has historically been a vital source of funding for early stage companies.  Most early stage companies are not able to qualify for bank financing and are too early for private equity financing. Venture capital and angel investor financing traditionally stepped into this gap and gave these companies the critical financing that they needed to survive and expand. Private equity firms tended to remain out of the early stage financing arena until a company had reached a certain level of revenues or profitability.

This traditional financing model has changed.  Many private equity firms have shifted their investment focus to an even more mature class of companies. There has been a concurrent shift in focus by venture capital firms as many of them have also shifted their investment focus to more mature companies and are subjecting target companies to stricter investment criteria.

These shifts in investment focus are understandable, but they have significantly reduced the availability of crucial funding sources for early stage companies. These shifts happened at a very tough time for most small companies as they tried to recover from bad economic conditions.  This reduction in financing opportunities coupled with the overall slow pace of the economic recovery has caused a dire situation for many early stage companies and entrepreneurs.  Fortunately several events have occurred that should help to fill this financing gap.
Continue Reading