IPOs on the Upswing?

In good times or bad, getting access to the capital needed for growth stands as a huge challenge for entrepreneurs.

On April 2, the National Venture Capital Association and Thomson Reuters pointed to some life in the first quarter of this year when it comes to venture-backed initial public offerings.

Specifically, it was reported: "There were 19 venture-backed IPOs valued at $1.5 billion in the first quarter of 2012, which represented a 10 percent increase in dollar value and a 36 percent increase in volume compared to the first quarter of 2011."

The volatility in venture-backed IPOs in recent years has been notable. In 2006, for example, there were 57 such IPOs, followed by 87 in 2007. They then plummeted to 6 in all of 2008 and 12 in 2009. The number rose to 74 in 2010, and then declined back to 53 last year.

If the momentum from the strong first quarter showing - which came after a recent low of five in the third quarter of 2011 and 12 in the fourth quarter - follows through for the rest of the year, that would be a clear plus for the economy.

Of course, the considerable uncertainty swirling around the election, and how a variety of tax issues will eventually come out, have to serve as dampening effects on such activity.

Although, it is worth highlighting a policy point made by Mark Heesen, president of the NVCA. He observed: "The recently passed JOBS Act will grant emerging growth companies temporary but significant regulatory relief during the IPO process, allowing them to focus on accessing capital to grow their businesses."

Clearing away threats of increased tax and regulatory burdens - including the possibility of higher capital gains taxes - would be a plus for the venture capital and IPO marketplaces. In contrast, imposing higher taxes would raise costs and restrain investment activity.


Raymond J. Keating is chief economist for the Small Business & Entrepreneurship Council. His new book is "Chuck" vs. the Business World: Business Tips on TV.