LinkedIn Leads Latest IPO Surge

The venture-backed IPO market is back in a big way.

How else to interpret the steady stream of blockbuster and mid-sized offerings in April and first few weeks of May?

Capped by LinkedIn, which raised just over $350 million in its juggernaut May 19 offering, 15 venture-backed companies made their market debuts during the last two months, according to Thomson Reuters (publisher of VCJ).

Closely watched as a barometer for the social networking sector, LinkedIn’s IPO delivered on the hype. The social network for professionals sold more than 7.8 million shares at $45 each, the top of its expected price range, which had been increased days before the offering. Its previous price range was $32 to $35 a share. Shares more than doubled in first-day trading, leaving the 8-year-old company with a market capitalization in excess of $9 billion.

LinkedIn itself sold 4.8 million shares of Class A stock while selling stockholders offered about 3 million Class A shares. Four venture firms—Bain Capital, Bessemer Venture Partners, Greylock Partners and Sequoia Capital—as a group hold shares worth in excess of $4 billion.

But while it may have been the most-talked-about IPO, LinkedIn’s offering was by no means the largest of the period. That title goes to Chinese social network Renren, which raised $743 million in a May 4 offering on the New York Stock Exchange. The company—often called the Facebook of China—had a market cap in mid-May of about $5.6 billion, down about 40% from its opening day peak. Shareholders include SoftBank(which had a 34% post-IPO stake), DCM(7.5%) and General Atlantic (3.4%).

Renren was one of several China-based, VC-backed companies to launch offerings in April and May. Others include 21ViaNet, a Beijing-based Internet content delivery network and data center operator, which raised $195 million in an April 21 offering. Backers include GGV (8.4% post-IPO stake), Matrix Partners (6.3%), Meritech Capital Partners (5.3%) and Cisco Systems(1.7%).

Also, NetQin Mobile, a provider of mobile security applications, raised $89 million in its May 5 IPO. Investors in the Beijing-based company include GSR Ventures (16.5% post-IPO stake), Ceyuan Ventures (11.9%) and Sequoia Capital (7.1%). And Phoenix New Media, the Beijing-based Internet arm of a Chinese satellite television provider, raised $140 million in its May 12 debut. Shareholders include Morningside China (12.2% pre-IPO stake) and Intel Capital (10.1%).

Responsys, a provider of software for managing marketing campaigns, priced shares at $12, above the expected range for its April 21 debut, raising $79 million. Its chief investors include Foundation Capital (16.3% post-IPO stake), Sigma Partners (16.3%), Accel Partners (14.7%), Redpoint Ventures (9.3%) and The Entrepreneurs’ Fund(5.2%).

RPX Corp., a patent acquirer and licensor that sells patent risk management services, raised $160 million in its May 4 debut. Index Ventures, Charles River Ventures and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers each own a 19% stake in the San Francisco-based company.

One worrisome sign, however, was that many of the companies that enjoyed the biggest run-ups in their debuts fell in aftermarket trading.

This was particularly true for China-based offerings. 21ViaNet shares, for instance, peaked above $22 in initial trading, but were down to about $13 in mid-May. Renren fell from a first-day high of $24 to a low of $12. NetQin shares were trading at about $6 in mid-May, down from an early high of nearly $12.

U.S.-based companies weren’t spared either. Shares of LinkedIn, for instance, closed with a phenomenal first-day gain of more than 100%. But shares, which settled on the first day $94, were still down sharply from their intraday peak of about $122.

Newly Registered

That said, it appears that hopes of upside gains continue to outweigh fears of downside losses, among aspiring public companies. A number of venture-backed companies filed to raise shares in late April and the first half of May, including:

IntelePeer, a provider of hosted communications services, has filed to raise $100 million. The San Mateo, Calif.-based company previously raised $48.4 million in venture funding, according to Thomson Reuters. Its largest venture stakeholders include VantagePoint Capital Partners (28.1% pre-IPO stake), Kennett Venture Partners (28.1%), NorthCap Partners (10.8%) and EDF Ventures (8.2%).

WageWorks, a provider of tax-advantaged spending accounts for health, dependent care, and commuting, filed to raise $100 million. Venture stakeholders in the San Mateo-based company, which previously raised $46.6 million include VantagePoint Capital Partners (74.6% pre-IPO stake), Advent International (11.7%) and Camden Partners(9.5%).

Impinj, a provider of radio frequency identification (RFID) products, is looking to raise $100 million. The Seattle-based company, founded in 2000, previously raised $132.5 million in venture funding. Its largest shareholders include ARCH Venture Partners (14.7% pre-IPO stake), Polaris Venture Partners (14.35%), Madrona Venture Group (10.6%) and Mobius Venture Capital (6.6%).

BrightSource Energy, a developer of utility-scale solar power projects, is seeking to raise $250 million. The Oakland, Calif.-based company previously raised $572 million in venture and expansion-stage funding. Its largest shareholders include VantagePoint Capital Partners (24.9%), Alstom Power (17.8% pre-IPO stake), Morgan Stanley (10.5%) and Draper Fisher Jurvetson (6.7%).

TrustWave Holdings, a Chicago-based developer of data security and payment card industry compliance applications, filed to raise $100 million. Investors in the company, which previously raised $10 million in venture funding, include FTV Ventures, MBK Ventures and First Analysis Funds.

Bluestem Brands, an Eden Prairie, Minn.-based online and catalog retailer that also provides credit to customers, is seeking to raise $150 million. Shareholders include Battery Ventures (29%), Petters Group Worldwide (21%), Brookside Capital Partners (15%), Bain Capital (14%), Prudential Capital (6%), Goldman Sachs (5%) and Fortress Investment Group (5%).

• Shanghai-based Nobao Renewable Energy Holdings, a provider of energy management systems for buildings, filed to raise $300 million. Backers include Tai Feng Investments, China Environment Fund and Silver Lake Partners.