Keeping The Window Open

Most people seem to have a favorite Saturday Night Live skit.  One of my favorites is, “Ruining It For Everybody,” a 1993 masterwork that features John Malkovich and some cast members discussing how they did something to ruin things for everyone else.  The Adam Sandler character, for example, explains why many restaurant bathrooms are now, ahem, “for customers only.”

Of course, finance is full of people who ruin things for everybody, too (thanks for the SarbOx, Enron!)  But the most insidious wreckers are those companies that go public and then miss their numbers within a few quarters (what’s up, Rosetta Stone?!?)  It’s those flubs that have a chilling effect on the market for emerging growth companies. 

And as the IPO backlog builds, I hope the bankers take out only those companies that can keep the momentum going, not just those that will pay enough fees to help them get out of arrears at The Stanwich Club.

I say this because, as institutional investors, we’ve seen that movie before.  And I worry that the IPO market for IT companies could start to look like the market for biotechs: long stretches of desolation punctuated by sporadic frenzies of activity that end when public investors start to feel snookered. 

There are some good companies in the IPO pipeline right now and I wish them all well.  Their success should lead to more opportunity for other companies.  I just hope that the backers and bankers of some of the hundreds of other companies considering a public offering think long and hard about pushing a marginal or unprepared company into the arena.

Please don’t be that guy; don’t ruin it for everybody.

Chris Douvos co-heads the private equity division at The Investment Fund for Foundations (TIFF). His blog is You can read his past peHUB posts here.