F.ounders 2013: Don't go public. Ever

By Nathaniel Mott , written on March 15, 2013

From The News Desk

You can practically hear the sound of Mark Zuckerberg's hoodie swooshing through the halls of NASDAQ's MarketSite in Times Square. The building, which plays host to NASDAQ's broadcast studio, an event space, and the opening and closing bell ceremonies, was the home of F.ounders 2013, where one panel promised to answer a simple question: Who's going to go public next?

The panel, moderated by Forbes' Bruce Upbin, tasked Andreessen Horowitz's John O'Farrell, Lerer Ventures' Eric Hippeau, Goldman Sachs' Anthony Noto, NASDAQ's Nelson Griggs, and Cooley's Eric Jensen with answering that simple question. Unfortunately for anyone hoping to hear about the IPO process, who might go public next, or what exactly happened with the Facebook IPO, the panel spent most of its time repeating a simple mantra: "Don't go public."

O'Farrell and Noto spent a few moments talking about the benefits of going public -- liquidity, branding, "openness of financials," and acquisition currency key among them -- before wading into all of the reasons why a company shouldn't aim for an IPO. The only mention of the next company to go public was Upbin's half-hearted attempt to steer the conversation towards Twitter, which he said is the "next big consumer brand rumored to go public."

The panel quickly devolved into repetitions of a few simple ideas: Don't go public; eventually, you might have to go public, but there are ways you can avoid that; and the public market is hard to navigate for small companies. And so on and so forth, until Griggs -- via a well-tossed bone from Upbin -- was able to plug NASDAQ's upcoming private market.

"At NASDAQ, we do recognize that the market has changed," said Griggs. "As we go through the rule processes, we'll be fully launching a platform that does provide company access to who can sell, who the buyers are, when they can sell, and really alleviate some of the liquidity concerns before you go public."

Never mind that some argued that NASDAQ's technical failure botched the most important tech IPO of the last decade. No, seriously, don't mind it – Facebook's IPO wasn't mentioned during the panel, despite the fact that it's one of the most recent tech IPOs and provided the perfect platform for NASDAQ to convince nascent startups that, if they do decide to go public, it won't cause the same problems it did a year ago.

Don't go public. Stay private for as long as you can. Please, for the love of everything capitalist and wonderful in this world, don't mention Facebook. And don't ask us who's going to go public next.

(Disclosure: Andreessen Horowitz's Marc Andreessen is an investor in PandoDaily, as is Lerer Ventures.)

[Image Credit: Wikimedia]