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A record stretch of tech IPOs isn't delivering for new investors because of private market froth

Monitors display Coinbase signage during the company's initial public offering (IPO) at the Nasdaq MarketSite in New York, on Wednesday, April 14, 2021.
Michael Nagle | Bloomberg | Getty Images

The past year has been a bonanza for tech public market debuts, featuring some of the biggest IPOs ever, a record stretch for the New York Stock Exchange and the emergence of direct listings and special purpose acquisition companies.

Whatever party is taking place, public investors don't seem to be invited.

From Snowflake's $3.9 billion IPO, the most ever raised by a software company, to the hotly-anticipated listings from Airbnb, DoorDash and Coinbase, all the investment gains have been swallowed up by big institutions that got in before the stocks were openly traded.

The underwhelming after-market performance is the result of a decade-long swarm of private cash into what was previously a niche venture capital industry.

Hedge funds, private equity firms and sovereign wealth funds have poured money into the start-up ecosystem, allowing companies to put off dealing with the pesky public markets for as long as possible, while keeping their financials mostly opaque.

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