Term Sheet

The latest on private equity, M&A, deals and movements — from Wall Street to Silicon Valley

Facebook IPO should not be discounted

January 2, 2013: 4:47 PM ET

Facebook's IPO mattered because it skewed the year-end data.

FORTUNE -- In today's Term Sheet email, I wrote the following about 2012 IPOs:

49 venture capital-backed companies raised $21.5 billion by going public on U.S. exchanges in 2012, according to data released this morning by Thomson Reuters and the National Venture Capital Association. That represents the largest dollar amount since 2000, thanks almost entirely to the $16 billion Facebook offering.

If you remove Facebook, the dollar total falls below both 2010 and 2011 totals. For context, 68 VC-backed companies raised $7.6 billion via IPOs in 2010, and 51 VC-backed companies raised $10.7 billion in 2011.

The numbers are correct, but I wish that I hadn't been so quick to offer an analysis of how things would have looked without Facebook (FB).

When it comes to venture capital, it's the outliers that matter. Or, to use a sports metaphor, venture capitalists get paid to hit for power rather than for average.

Think about Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. If you remove its 1999 investment in Google (GOOG), the firm's ninth fund is said to be relatively pedestrian. But that deal helped make KPCB IX one of the best-performing VC funds of all time, and cemented Kleiner Perkins as one of the most desirable partners for early-stage tech entrepreneurs and institutional investors alike. The big win mattered. The rest was forgotten.

Remember, venture capital risk isn't that a particular portfolio company could fail. It's that 20 portfolio companies could fail, or that 10 could fail and the other 10 would return cost or come out just barely in the black.

Facebook was the outlier reward. It shouldn't be removed from an IPO analysis because it skews the results. Instead, it should be highlighted because the skew is what matters most.

Sign up for Dan's daily email newsletter on deals and deal-makers: GetTermSheet.com

Join the Conversation
About This Author
Dan Primack
Dan Primack
Senior Editor, Fortune

Dan Primack joined Fortune.com in September 2010 to cover deals and dealmakers, from Wall Street to Sand Hill Road. Previously, Dan was an editor-at-large with Thomson Reuters, where he launched both peHUB.com and the peHUB Wire email service. In a past journalistic life, Dan ran a community paper in Roxbury, Massachusetts. He currently lives just outside of Boston.

Email a Tip | @danprimack | RSS
Current Issue
  • Give the gift of Fortune
  • Get the Fortune app
  • Subscribe
Powered by WordPress.com VIP.