Once-cocky start-ups are getting a little self-conscious. In the midst of recent market turbulence, many speculated the IPO market would get tight -- a sky-is-falling cry that hadn't panned out before. But in April, the evidence started to mount, and mount fast.
What with the
feisty unseating of so many glory-seeking Internet companies, high-tech start-ups are growing shy when it comes to the market. As recently as a month ago, IPO bachelors thought a filet-o'-fish sandwich and supersized fries were all it took to charm the markets. But the market has harshly rebuffed their stumbling advances. In April, at least four once-brazen companies quietly snatched their IPO proposals back from the
, and another six companies withdrew follow-on offerings.
Forget about it. Maybe some other time. Gotta go! Bye!
Their stories and outlooks are varied. Super-confident
, a wireless-content company, brushed off its IPO withdrawal. It didn't need the money or the hassle of a restless market. It has
, among others, to keep it warm. "We really didn't need the money," says CEO and founder Jim Carol. "We're very well-funded, our contract flow is good. What do we know? We run the business. Running the business isn't about raising money."
There's no lack of ego here, as the wireless-content market begins to make its first strides. "An IPO is a branding event. The markets were puffed up, for companies like ourselves, valuing companies in the $10 billion to $11 billion range," Carol salivates. "With the aspect of getting that kind of valuation, it makes absolute sense to go public. Once those valuations were gone, it didn't."
Slouching in a decidedly less-attractive market,
went back to the drawing board on a 5 million-share follow-on offering. The sporting goods e-commerce company instead grabbed a handful of daisies and got some safe affection from private investors
Softbank Capital Partners
Softbank Capital Advisors Fund
. Phew. With its $25 million in new funding, the company could clamp its eyelids shut and forget the harsh judgments of the market.
Eating its bag lunch past the fringes of popularity, college planning site
Embark Com Inc.
refused to elaborate on its plans, offering only a written statement about its aborted attempt to raise $55 million through an IPO. "The Registrant believes that terms obtainable in the marketplace at this time are not sufficiently attractive to warrant proceeding with the sale of the Shares," the company said in an SEC filing. So, it huddled with its cooler friends,
Norwest Venture Partners
, and agreed to sit out the IPO this time around. Rest assured, gentle investor, the start-up has "the flexibility to step away from the turbulence of the public market, and will continue to focus on the execution of our business plan."
That plan would be e-commerce revenue from online test-prep courses, plane tickets and merchandise. A little pimply, but the sun shines on a chess club member some days. Right? Right?
Internet commerce application vendor
went so far as to take a snotty tone. It's not that it couldn't get a date to the prom, it's just that only losers go. In a press release on its IPO withdrawal, OneSoft -- which lost $15.8 million on revenue of $4.6 million in the first three quarters of 1999 -- scoffed that it was waiting because, "The market was having a natural, albeit negative, response to an influx of less-stable technology and dot-com companies." Investors
Blue Water Capital
will have to practice their upper-lip curling until those less-stable types get out of OneSoft's way.
Online customer-service provider
pulled its 5 million-share initial public offering, a decision CFO Mark Yanson didn't want to talk about. Who can blame him? Increasingly, tech companies are finding the lumps in their throats bigger than their desire to ask the public for its opinion on their business plans. iSky investors
Internet Capital Group
will have to recross their legs and wait patiently for those IPO returns. Friday, wedding and gift sites
, both easy IPOs in last year's market, merged with the full blessing of respective backers
. Guess the brutal reception of
, which went public in December, doesn't make them eager to put their heart on a soft velvet pillow for the giving.
chose to give
a little more time at home to mature before sending it off to the wolves. The ad-purchasing network recently changed its name to
and took $25 million from CMGI's B2B Fund. And, while it hasn't withdrawn its IPO, long-anticipated
is still paused, waiting for the glorious moment when it can sing its siren song to forlorned Internet investors.
Put those together with the pulled follow-on offerings of
Vasco Data Securities
and you can see there are more wallflowers than Casanovas at this point.
Once the market stops shooting them dirty looks, we'll see how long it takes to get their confidence back.
Tish Williams' column takes at look at the people who make Silicon Valley tick. In keeping with TSC's editorial policy, she doesn't own or short individual stocks, although she does own stock options in TheStreet.com. She also doesn't invest in hedge funds or other private investment partnerships. She breathlessly awaits your feedback at