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Public Investors Signal It’s A Buyer’s Market For Money-Losing Startups

The joke is an homage to the oft-mocked truth that in the world of high-valuation startups, investors have historically favored growth above profits.

Public investors, it turns out, are not always willing to pay astronomical multiples for money-losing companies just because founders, VCs and investment bankers spin a great narrative about their world-changing potential.

That is: What level and type of losses are acceptable to public market investors these days?

We Make The Valuations, Not You: At some points in the business cycle, startup IPOs are essentially a seller’s market.

Public investors are eager for new offerings, and it’s relatively easy for IPO underwriters to sell shares their at desired price.

In a hot seller’s market, one can list a home with ugly pink bathroom tiles and still get multiple good offers in a few days.

In recent months, public market investors have seen a lot of IPO filings with the financial equivalents of ugly pink bathroom tile.

U.S. indexes are still trading near multi-year highs, the IPO window is open, and public investors are looking for new growth stories.

But while some balance sheet ugliness remains tolerable, do expect public investors to demand a discount.

Looking at the emerging standards of public market investors, a casual observer might say they seem pretty sensible.

For now, expect the startup crowd to talk about how a successful bar investment now includes selling some drinks, preferably at more than it costs to pour them.

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