There were a few equally dramatic start-up IPO’s on a smaller scale, almost exclusively in the B2B high tech sector. Veeva Systems saw one of the fastest rise to profitability by selling cloud-based enterprise CRM to pharmaceutical and biotech companies. Veeva, funded six years ago, never had to raise more than $7 million of venture capital money, and in 2013 investors doubled the IPO opening share price and valued the business at $4.5 billion.
IPO’s weren’t the whole story though. Another biggest start-up exit story of the year was Tumblr’s acquisition by Yahoo. The Internet rang out with a collective howl when Tumblr announced their new boss would be the clean-cut, family-friendly portal Yahoo, one of the last ancient survivors from the earliest days of the web. Tumblr users saw themselves as too young, hip and X-rated to survive under the rule of Marissa Mayer. To meet criticism head on, the deal was announced on Mayer’s own Tumblr with the words “Now Panic and Freak Out.” Tumblr earned a healthy $1.1 billion, almost all of it in cash, and a promise to leave the site untouched in exchange for Yahoo gaining a younger audience and easy access to mobile ads.
On the other hand, some of the most interesting stories were the exits that didn’t happen. On the M&A front, the left-at-the-alter prize went to Facebook, which was very publicly rebuffed in trying to acquire the start-up Snapchat. $3 billion wasn’t enough to separate Snapchat from its ambitious founder Evan Spiegel. Shortly after, Google excitedly offered $4 billion and better terms, which Spiegel also turned down. All of this for a company with no revenue and plenty of legal challenges. Crazy? Maybe. Part of this strategy was driven by all the commentary that Instagram, which sold itself to Facebook for $1 billion, had far undervalued itself. If Snapchat can build itself into a core software application such as Gmail or YouTube, some analysts argue $30 billion would be much closer to a fair offer.
The other big non-story was Box delayed IPO. This popular cloud-based storage company had been primed to go public in 2013, but decided to gave it a miss for another year under intense competition from Dropbox and document sharing software from the big guns like Google and Microsoft. Instead, Box decided to pump up its potential valuation by plugging holes, such as the acquisition of the security company dLoop. Box now joins Square and Seamless as the hot IPO’s to watch in 2014.