Will the surge continue?

Eight venture-backed companies went public in February, raising $892 million. That was a nice increase from the same month a year earlier, when six venture-backed companies raised a total of $238 million.

But as of mid-March, it wasn’t looking like the surge would continue. As of March 14, just two more VC-backed companies had made it out—WiMax provider Clearwire and network security provider Sourcefire. It is unclear if the new issues market was hurt by the woes of the overall market. After a 416-point drop on Feb. 27, the Down Jones Industrial Average took another hit on March 13, falling 242 points due to concern over the subprime mortgage business.

Still, there is reason to be encouraged. Of the eight VC-backed companies that made it out in February, five were trading above their offering prices at the end of February.

The top performer among the newest issues was Optimer Pharmaceuticals, a maker of carbohydrate-based drugs, which went public for $7 per share on Feb. 9. Its stock price surged 44% to $10.10 on Feb. 28. Optimer had previously raised $67.2 million from a host of VCs. Its top three backers held shares worth about $35 million after the IPO.

The worst performer was Synta Pharmaceuticals, which went public for $10 per share on Feb. 6. The company, which makes small-molecule drugs to treat cancer and chronic inflammatory diseases, saw its shares decline by 15% to $8.53 on Feb. 28. It had previously raised more than $230 million from VCs. Its largest backer, hedge fund Caxton Corp., held shares worth $67.2 million after the IPO.

Where are they now?

Of the six VC-backed companies that went public in February 2006, just two are trading above their offering prices: Acorda Therapeutics (up 262% as of Feb. 28) and Liquidity Services (up 81%). The losers were Cardica (down 49%), Iomai (down 27%), SGX Pharmaceuticals (down 24%) and Valera Pharmaceuticals (down 10%). —Lawrence Aragon