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專欄 - 從華爾街到硅谷

硅谷風投界的情況有些不對

Dan Primack 2015年06月23日

Dan Primack專注于報道交易和交易撮合者,從美國金融業到風險投資業均有涉及。此前,Dan是湯森路透(Thomson Reuters)的自由編輯,推出了peHUB.com和peHUB Wire郵件服務。作為一名新聞工作者,Dan還曾在美國馬薩諸塞州羅克斯伯里經營一份社區報紙。目前他居住在波士頓附近。
盡管處處歡聲笑語,創業公司的估值持續攀升,但硅谷風投界的發展勢頭相當不妙。如果從來都不“騎”,養一大群獨角獸又有什么用呢?

????上周,我在硅谷待了好幾天,和風投資本家聊天時,大多數人都在給我講故事,描述他們的投資組合有多勇猛不凡。風投公司云集的沙丘路上仿佛灑滿了陽光,估值10億美元以上的“獨角獸”創業公司也隨處可見。

????這些人什么時候才會開始緊張呢?雖然未必要緊張估值節節攀升,但總該擔心流動性枯竭吧?

????現在的風投和私募不同。私募會不斷賣掉一切不能囫圇吞下的東西;風投則是買下之后就死死抱在手里。今年初以來,有風投背景的科技公司上市的只有七家; 6月份首發的目前只有Fitbit一家。照這樣的趨勢來看,2015年有可能成為金融危機爆發以來有風投背景的科技公司IPO的最低谷。此外,風投支持的,完成戰略性轉讓而且估值超過10億美元的科技公司也只有兩家(Lynda.com被LinkedIn收購,Virtustream被EMC所收購)。

????如果從來都不“騎”,養一大群獨角獸又有什么用呢?

????對于IPO匱乏的問題,一個解釋是在那群“獨角獸”中,很多公司都在創始人的控制之下,隨著大型共同基金和對沖基金經理人紛紛涉足私募市場,創始人更沒什么興趣應付公開市場的種種麻煩了。另一個不那么有愛的理由是,在這些公司中,內部紀律嚴格的企業太少,特別是就燒錢速度而言,而這是股市投資者所看重的。不管是出于以上哪種原因,風投基金的有限合伙人現在都收不到回報。

????而對于科技公司并購案太少的問題,買賣雙方似乎都難逃其咎。買家方面,企業發展經理表示很難說服董事會在進行非公開收購時支付溢價,因為大家普遍認為收購對象的價格已經高估(盡管許多董事會都握有大量現金,而且他們公司的股價也很高)。就賣家而言,他們仍相信富達國際投資或Vanguard Wellington等投資者愿意按更高的估值開出支票(他們都在想,我們可不能過早脫手,我們要當下一個Instagram)。

????當然,上述情況也許只是大家的日程安排湊巧撞到了一起,而且預示著美國勞動節(9月份的第一個星期一)過后將會有一批新股上市。但股市火熱再加上一大批高估值公司的出現,本應順理成章地使風投得到大舉退出的機會,而實際情況卻并非如此。

????如果我是風投界的一員,那我也許是時候把目光從燦爛的陽光上移開,瞥一眼日漸密布的烏云了。(財富中文網)

????譯者:Charlie

????審校:夏林

????I spent a good chunk of last week in Silicon Valley, speaking to venture capitalists who mostly wanted to regale me with tales of their portfolio prowess. Sunshine and unicorns all over Sand Hill Road.

????When will these folks start getting nervous? Not about rising valuations, per se, but about their inability to get liquidity?

????Unlike private equity peers who have been selling everything that isn’t bolted down, venture capital is in the midst of an overwhelming buy-and-hold paralysis. Only seven VC-backed tech companies have gone public so far this year, with just one more (Fitbit) currently on the pricing calendar for June. At this rate, 2015 could go down as the slowest year for VC-backed tech IPOs since the throes of the financial crisis. Moreover, there have been only two strategic sales of VC-backed tech companies valued at over $1 billion (Lynda.com to LinkedIn and Virtustream to EMC).

????What good is it to have a stable of unicorns if you don’t ever ride them?

????In terms of the lack of IPOs, one explanation is that the unicorn crowd includes a disproportionate number of founder-controlled companies, and such folks have little incentive to deal with public market headaches when big mutual fund and hedge fund managers will dip down into the private markets. A less charitable rationale is that too few of these companies have imposed the tough internal discipline — particularly in terms of burn rate — that public equity investors demand. Either way, limited partners in VC funds aren’t getting paid.

????As for the lack of tech M&A, it seems to be both a buy-side and sell-side problem. On the buy-side, corporate development managers say it is difficult to convince their boards to pay premiums to private round prices that, in general, are believed to be artificially inflated (even though many of those boards are sitting on massive cash hoards and their own high stock prices). On the sell-side, there’s again the belief that Fidelity or Wellington will be willing to write the next check at an ever-increasing valuation (i.e., we don’t want to sell too early and be thought of as the next Instagram).

????To be sure, all this could all just be a coincidental calendar blip that presages a post-Labor Day gold rush. But strong public market conditions+high-value portfolio companies should equal big exits. And it isn’t.

????If I’m a venture capitalist, it might be time to stop staring at the sun and take a peek at the darkening clouds.

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