It would be remiss of us not to mention the Linkedin IPO here at innovatrs. After all, it’s not just a staggering value, it’s not just opening up the ‘new bubble’ debate, but it is, let’s be truthful, the moment of which most entrepreneurs dream when they start tinkering with that piece of code in their back room. We’re not going to talk too much about whether the value is realistic, but rather the fact that this has to be considered another of those landmark moments for the Internet. As our HQ is a mix of bright young things and more, shall we say, seasoned entrepreneurs, we thought today we’d just remind ourselves of some of those significant IPO events. The one that kicked it all off was Netscape. The moment that the world noticed Silicon Valley and more importantly noticed that this Internet thing wasn’t something a little bit odd and techy, but an industry in its own right. And the event that perhaps above everything else, inspired ‘techies’ to think business. So Marc Andreessen and his co-founders gave birth not just to a generation of technology but to a generation of technology ventures. There was a flurry from that moment on and it seemed that just the word Internet was enough to inspire. At a personal level I remember much curiosity being aroused as to why there were a bunch of suited people arriving in one of Silicon Fen’s tech venues, more usually populated by lads in Linux t-shirts. These were the financiers who were sorting out the details of a young company called Autonomy as it IPOed, now one of the true UK tech successes. The first hints of the end of stage 1 were probably when lastminute.com launched. This was the Internet company that had hit home with non-technical audiences and it was hugely oversubscribed – the pre-float price was increased by more than 60 per cent just days before the issue. But trading did not live up to the pre-float hype. On the first day of trading, shares rose to 555p, valuing the company at £732m. Two days later it was worth £590m as the shares dropped back towards the issue price of 380p. So the bubble had felt the first pinprick that marked the end of the boom. Then in 2004, we hit phase 2 when Google, another classic ‘student’ enterprise that went a little bit further, went public. Google’s 2004 IPO valued it at $23 billion. And we all know what happened next. An incredible market value of $171 billion. As we know it’s not been an easy ride for most businesses since then: the amazement when Google floated was that it was valued at the same level as a little business called General Motors. And we know how their fortunes fared in comparison with the Internet giant in the intervening period. So fast forward to Linkedin. The first ‘social’ IPO. With Twitter, despite still not really knowing how to make money, Groupon, Facebook and Zynga all wondering whether to join in the fun. After all, when you look back at these and forward to the next ones, it’s rather clear that we’re dealing with not just technology landmarks, financial events but activities that have shaped the world as we know it. Simultaneous with Linkedin’s offering was the flotation of Glencore, showing that big money is still the name of the game, even after the financial services meltdown. Whatever your views on the implications of Linkedin’s value, we should all enjoy the moment, and rejoice in the fact that great ideas are being visibly rewarded again, which should inspire every entrepreneur. Go embrace that spirit!
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