Q4 shows signs of life

The dormant IPO market is picking up speed in the fourth quarter. Six venture-backed startups hit the public markets in October and another four listed through the first half of November, according to Thomson Financial (publisher of VCJ). The 10 IPOs have raised nearly $750 million so far this quarter. That compares to eight VC-backed companies that raised $934 million on the public markets in the third quarter.

The IPO rate is a little faster than during the same period last year, but the amount raised is lagging. Eight venture-backed companies went public between October 2005 and the middle of November 2005. They raised a total of $2.34 billion, thanks to particularly large IPOs from iRobot (Nasdaq: IRBT) and Saifun Semiconductors (Nasdaq: SFUN), each of which raised more than $500 million.

The market seems receptive to the new offers, with eight of the 10 new issues in Q4 trading above their offering prices.

The quarter’s top performer has been eHealth, which sells online health insurance options, quotes and policies. It had raised $86.2 million in three rounds from Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, Sprout Capital, Dell Ventures, Lightspeed Venture Partners, Goldman, Sachs & Co. and QuestMark Partners before going public for $14 per share on Oct. 13. As of mid-November, the stock price was around $25.

Acme Packet has also done well in the aftermarket. The company, which sells session routers for improving real-time network communications, raised $45.5 million in three rounds from Advanced Technology Ventures, Canaan Partners and Menlo Ventures. After pricing at $9.50 per share on Oct. 13, it shot above $14 i n mid-November.

The poorest performer to date has been ORBCOMM, which sells sells satellite tracking services. It had raised $103.3 million in three rounds from Northwood Ventures, Pacific Corporate Group and Ridgewood Capital Management. It was trading for less than $7.50 per share in mid-November after pricing at $12 per share on Nov. 3. —Alexander Haislip