There's a chance this year's IPO boom goes bust, according to one specialist.
The tidal wave of highly anticipated initial public offerings has already begun, with Levi Strauss re-entering the public sphere last week. Still on the horizon are the IPOs of popular ride-hailing services Lyft and Uber, along with Pinterest, Airbnb and others.
But IPO specialist Kathleen Smith is wary of some of the coming offerings. Her firm, Renaissance Capital, runs an IPO-themed exchange-traded fund called the Renaissance IPO ETF that is up over 30 percent year to date.
"A very important test is going to be how the market reacts to these money-losing ones: Lyft, Uber, Pinterest," Smith said Monday on CNBC's "ETF Edge." "How are they going to be priced and traded?"
Wall Street's reaction will set the tone for this year's tidal wave of IPOs, and whether their valuations — many of which are in the tens of billions of dollars — can hold up, in some cases against their well-documented unprofitability, said Smith, who co-founded Renaissance Capital.
"We knew that our ETF, as it performed so well this year, meant [that] the window's opening for IPOs. We know from our studies [that] the early ones out are always the better performers for investors," she added.
Still, Smith said that even this potential hurdle doesn't bring 2019 close in comparison to the early-2000s dot-com bubble, when a glut of newly public internet companies drove the technology sector into disarray.
"The IPO market now, as opposed to the internet bubble, is much more institutional, so we're expecting the price discovery to be pretty good compared to what it was in the bubble period," Smith said. "It means that big institutions are going to control the ownership, early on, of these companies."
And while that means smaller institutions and individual investors will have to find more strategic times to buy in, Smith stressed that Renaissance's ETF takes some of that difficulty out of the equation.
"It's a rolling, two-year population of the largest and most liquid IPOs [that is] rebalanced every quarter," she said. "For very large companies, they'll come in pretty soon after the IPO starts trading. So, large ones like Lyft, Uber, [will] all be constituents on a fast-entry basis into our index."
"We are the first ETF to own these new companies. There are no other ETFs that are picking them up so early," she said, adding that while the S&P 500 took two years to add Facebook's stock to its holdings, Renaissance invested in it "within a week of its IPO."
The Renaissance IPO ETF is on pace for its best quarter ever, up 32 percent since Jan. 1.