Looking Ahead At The Next Top Tech IPOs

Every year, research firm CB Insights offers up a report on the fastest growing and most highly valued private companies in technology — basically, the ones most likely to go public. Audie Cornish speaks with Anand Sanwal, CB Insights' CEO, for a look at the top tech IPO's expected in 2014.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

Besides Snapchat, we wondered, heading into 2014, what are some of the other hot tech companies to watch? Well, the research firm CB Insights has an answer. It's just released its Tech IPO report for the coming year. It's billed as a fresh look at the fastest growing, most highly-valued private companies in technology. In other words, the ones most likely to go public.

Anand Sanwal is the CEO of CB Insights and he joins us from New York. Hello, there.

ANAND SANWAL: Hey, Audie.

CORNISH: So let's talk specifics. Just what exactly are you measuring? What makes a company likely to go public?

SANWAL: Sure, so at minimum they need $100-million valuation in the private market. So that's sort of our minimum ante to be on the list. Then the other things that we look for are momentum in the underlying business; so customer growth, user growth, revenues, heavy-retained bankers - that's probably the easiest clue for us to pick up on that, you know, you're thinking about going public. So those would be among the signals that we look for.

But I think momentum, along with that $100 million valuation, are the two key parameters that will get you on the list.

CORNISH: And, in the meantime, you've got this list of names in a much smaller group, right, the Billion Dollar-Plus Club? What companies there would we recognize?

SANWAL: Yeah, I mean, there are 26 companies right now that are worth over a billion dollars. Some them would include names like Dropbox, Pinterest, Snapchat would be among a few of the names that I think folks might recognize.

CORNISH: Now, you mentioned Pinterest, a company that's kind of creative use of social media. But then there are also companies like Jawbone, which actually makes hardware. Is this an important distinction to you, in terms of what companies might less susceptible to the bubble Steve Henn just talked about?

SANWAL: Yes, so I think hardware in general is a really kind of dominant trend going into 2014. And Jawbone kind of hits on multiple emerging trends, so, you know, I think you're selling - they're selling a very real product. It's not based on eyeballs or, you know, clicks on a website. So...

CORNISH: And we should say they make kind of audio hardware, for instance.

SANWAL: Yeah, they make speakers. They make something called the UP band, which let's you monitor sleep and see how much you've walked. It's kind of very in-line with this moved towards kind of wearable devices and quantifying your own movements in your body. But they're sort of this hybrid of software and hardware, which is an increasing trend that we're seeing.

CORNISH: And, Anand Sanwal, looking at your list going into 2014, are you seeing any other trends that strike you?

SANWAL: So there's a lot of private companies that are worth over a billion dollars and it's probably a bit frothy right now. Last year's list actually didn't have many casualties. Most of those companies - everybody is still alive and everybody is still doing well. This year's list, I think, you know, there's going to be a bit more volatility.

Some of these companies that are very highly-valued right now on the private markets are probably going to have - some of them are going to take some steps back and not necessarily go out of business but probably might not be on next year's IPO prospect list.

CORNISH: But does that speak to this bubble idea that we just heard from Steve Henn?

SANWAL: I don't think so. I think, you know, the bubble is when the public markets kind of lose their minds, in my opinion. And right now, the public markets are actually quite rational. They reward good companies that have good or decent fundamentals. And they are penalizing those companies that don't. And I think this is sort of the Darwinism of tech companies in general.

You know, if all of them are going to always have higher valuations and are always sort of trending up, that's more symptomatic of a bubble. But when companies that aren't doing well fall out of favor, that's actually quite healthy.

CORNISH: Anand Sanwal, he's the CEO of CB Insights. Thank you so much for talking with us.

SANWAL: Thanks, Audie.

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