In a banner year for tech IPOs, retail investors made money by going small

The New York Stock Exchange welcomes executives and guests of DoorDash, Inc. (NYSE: DASH), today, Wednesday, December 9, 2020, in celebration of its Initial Public Offering.

(This story is for CNBC PRO subscribers only.)

In a dismal year for the economy, IPOs flourished. The New York Stock Exchange had its busiest year in history for debuts. Snowflake, Airbnb and DoorDash held three of the 10 biggest offerings ever for U.S. tech companies.

After raising more than $3 billion each, they all had massive pops, further igniting controversy about the IPO process and the amount of virtually free money being handed over to Wall Street and big institutions. Airbnb and Snowflake more than doubled right away, and DoorDash closed up 86%.

The story for retail investors, who weren't able to get in at the IPO price, has been very different. They were locked out of the immediate gains and have little to show for buying afterwards.

More In Investing trends

CNBC ProHere are the extremely valued stocks Goldman Sachs is worried about
CNBC ProWall Street analysts say these are some of the top recovery plays this year
CNBC ProThese stocks are expected to have the biggest earnings comebacks in 2021 as economy reopens