Most companies exit by their Series D

How many rounds has it historically taken tech companies to go public?  Based on the data from 124 IPO’s, the answer varies depending on industry.  The data and observations are below.



Software businesses need 4 rounds.  On median, publicly traded software companies raised through their Series D before going public.  Note however that of the 6 companies that IPO’d in 2018 (Docusign, Smartsheets, Zuora, ZScaler, Dropbox, SurveyMonkey), 3 of them went to their Series F.  Those 6 companies took on average 13 years to IPO versus the median on the group which is 9 years.  Software companies are staying private longer.


Social Media needs 6 rounds.  Social media companies on median didn’t exit until after their Series F.   Linkedin was the quickest of the group going only to the Series D,  It’s interesting to see that social media companies made it to the promised land faster – on median they took 7 years since founding to IPO whereas software took 9 years.


Marketplaces took 5 rounds.  Marketplaces and transactional models needed 5 rounds through the Series E.  They took 7 years to exit.  Notice though that Eventbrite and Redfin which exited in 2018 and 2016 respectively, took 13 years and 7 rounds to exit on average.  Again, this supports the view that companies are staying private longer.


Ad based businesses went through 4 rounds.  They took 7 years to exit on median.  Netscape which was founded and ultimately IPO’d in 1994, is a great reminder of how crazy the dotcom boom was.


Subscription and E-commerce exited after the Series C.  Subscription took 7 years to exit on median and e-commerce took 5.  Even more recent exits like Blue Apron and StitchFix needed only 4 and 6 years respectively.


Hardware, payments, and gaming are also presented in the data.  Note this data does not show whether there were multiple occurrences of the same round (for instance B, B1, B2) or bridge rounds – both are unlikely since these companies all were successful enough to go public.  The data does seem to show that some of the more recent IPO’s in the tech space took much longer to exit and many more rounds as companies are staying private longer.  Also notice businesses that are B2C focused scale much faster than those that are B2B or enterprise focused, so they exit sooner.


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