Reasons Behind the Failure of IPOs

| 10 min. read | By Olivia Foster
Gain insights into the reasons why some IPOs fail to meet expectations, and learn how to navigate potential pitfalls when investing in upcoming tech IPOs.

Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) are a crucial mechanism for businesses to raise capital and go public.

However, not all IPOs succeed, and understanding the reasons why these efforts fail is important for businesses considering going public.

Understanding IPOs and Their Importance

Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) are an exciting time for companies and investors alike.

They represent a crucial step in a company’s growth, and they can provide a significant return on investment for those who participate.

In this article, we will explore IPOs in greater detail, including what they are, their role in the financial market, and the benefits and risks associated with going public.

Benefits and Risks of Going Public

Going public has significant benefits, including access to capital that can be used for growth or debt repayment. In addition, the increased visibility and credibility that come with being a publicly traded company can lead to greater opportunities for partnerships and collaborations.

However, going public also comes with risks. One of the most significant risks is the increased regulatory requirements that come with being a publicly traded company. These requirements can be time-consuming and expensive, and failure to comply can result in significant penalties and legal consequences.

Another risk of going public is the greater scrutiny from investors and analysts. Public companies are expected to meet quarterly earnings expectations, which can put pressure on management to prioritize short-term gains over long-term growth. This pressure can lead to a lack of innovation and investment in research and development.

Despite these risks, many companies choose to go public because of the significant benefits that come with being a publicly traded company. Ultimately, the decision to go public should be based on a careful consideration of the company’s goals, financial health, and long-term growth prospects.

Factors Contributing to IPO Failures

Initial Public Offerings (IPOs) are a critical milestone for any company looking to raise capital and expand its operations. However, not all IPOs are successful, and many fail to meet the expectations of investors and the company itself. The following are some of the key factors that contribute to IPO failures:

Overvaluation and Pricing Issues

One of the most significant factors contributing to IPO failures is overvaluation. When a company’s shares are overvalued, investors may be hesitant to invest, as they are unlikely to see a return on their investment. Additionally, pricing issues, including underpricing, can result in poor performance after the IPO has launched, leading to a drop in the stock price.

For example, in 2012, Facebook’s highly anticipated IPO was marred by technical glitches and overvaluation. The company’s shares were priced at $38, but within a few months, they had dropped to around $20, resulting in significant losses for investors.

Market Conditions and Timing

The market conditions at the time of the IPO can also impact the success of the offering. Economic downturns, unstable market conditions, or overlapping IPOs can make it challenging to attract investors. The timing of the IPO is also critical. If it launches during a weak market period or a holiday season, which can impact trading volumes, it may struggle to gain momentum.

For example, in 2019, ride-hailing company Uber went public during a challenging market period, resulting in a lackluster IPO. The company’s shares were initially priced at $45, but within a few weeks, they had dropped to around $30.

Poor Financial Performance and Business Models

If a company is not generating revenue, is experiencing losses, or has an unsustainable business model, investors may be hesitant to invest in the IPO. Poor financial performance can impact the company’s share price and reputation, leading to a lack of investor trust.

For example, in 2019, WeWork’s IPO was canceled after the company’s poor financial performance and questionable business practices were revealed. The company had been valued at $47 billion, but its IPO was pulled after investors expressed concerns about the company’s ability to generate profits.

Companies going public must comply with a range of regulatory requirements, including filing documents with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). Legal challenges, such as lawsuits against the company or its executives, can also significantly impact an IPO’s success.

For example, in 2012, social gaming company Zynga’s IPO was impacted by legal challenges. The company was sued by investors who claimed that Zynga had misled them about its financial performance. The lawsuit resulted in a drop in the company’s share price and a lack of investor confidence.

Ineffective Management and Corporate Governance

If a company’s management team is perceived as ineffective or if the business has poor corporate governance practices, investors may be hesitant to invest. Lack of transparency or a history of controversies can also contribute to a lack of investor trust and low demand for shares.

For example, in 2019, office-sharing company WeWork’s IPO was canceled due to concerns about the company’s management and governance practices. The company’s co-founder and CEO, Adam Neumann, was criticized for his management style and questionable business practices, leading to a lack of investor confidence.

In conclusion, while IPOs can be a valuable way for companies to raise capital and expand their operations, they are not without risks. Companies must carefully consider the factors that contribute to IPO failures and take steps to mitigate these risks.

Notable IPO Failures and Their Causes

An initial public offering (IPO) is a significant milestone for any company, representing a major step in its growth and development. However, not all IPOs are successful, and some companies have experienced notable failures in their attempts to go public. In this article, we will explore some of the most high-profile IPO failures and the causes behind them.

Facebook’s Troubled IPO

When Facebook went public in 2012, it was one of the most highly anticipated IPOs in recent memory. However, the offering was plagued with issues from the start. One of the primary problems was that the IPO was initially overvalued, leading to unrealistic expectations from investors. Additionally, technical issues with the NASDAQ exchange led to delayed trades and investor confusion, further eroding investor confidence.

Another factor that contributed to Facebook’s troubled IPO was a lack of transparency from the company. In the lead-up to the offering, Facebook provided limited information about its financial performance, leaving investors with many unanswered questions. This lack of trust and transparency ultimately led to a less-than-stellar performance in the months following the IPO.

Blue Apron’s Rapid Decline

Meal kit delivery company Blue Apron went public in 2017, but its stock price quickly declined in the months following the IPO. There were several factors that contributed to the company’s struggles. One of the primary issues was customer retention. Blue Apron had trouble keeping customers engaged and coming back for more, which led to a decline in revenue and investor confidence.

Another challenge for Blue Apron was logistical. The company struggled to efficiently manage its supply chain and distribution network, leading to delays and other issues that impacted customer satisfaction. Finally, Blue Apron faced stiff competition from other meal kit delivery companies, which made it difficult for the company to stand out in a crowded market.

WeWork’s Failed Attempt to Go Public

Co-working space provider WeWork made headlines in 2019 when it attempted to go public. However, the company faced significant challenges in the months leading up to the planned IPO. One of the primary concerns for investors was WeWork’s corporate governance practices. The company’s CEO, Adam Neumann, had a reputation for being unconventional, and investors were unsure if he was the right person to lead a public company.

Another issue for WeWork was its financial performance. The company had been growing rapidly, but it was also burning through cash at an alarming rate. Investors were concerned that the company’s business model was not sustainable, and that it would struggle to turn a profit in the long run.

Ultimately, these concerns led WeWork to pull its IPO, and the company’s valuation took a significant hit as a result. While WeWork is still in business, the failed IPO was a significant setback for the company and its investors.

In conclusion, these three examples illustrate the challenges that companies can face when attempting to go public. Whether it’s overvaluation, lack of transparency, customer retention issues, or corporate governance concerns, there are many factors that can impact the success of an IPO. As investors, it’s important to carefully evaluate these risks before investing in a company that is going public.

Strategies to Improve IPO Success

Proper Valuation and Pricing

While going public can be a major milestone for a company, it’s important to approach the process with caution. One of the key factors that can contribute to a successful IPO is proper valuation and pricing. This means doing due diligence and accurately valuing the company, taking into account factors such as financial performance, growth potential, and market trends.

Once the company has been valued, it’s important to set a fair price for the shares. This can help attract investors and prevent an initial decline in the share price after the launch. However, setting the right price can be a delicate balance. If the price is too high, it may deter investors, while if it’s too low, the company may not raise as much capital as it needs.

Ultimately, a successful IPO requires a thorough understanding of the company’s value and the market conditions, as well as careful consideration of pricing strategy.

Strengthening Financial Performance and Business Models

Another key factor in a successful IPO is the company’s financial performance and business model. An IPO should be launched when the company has a strong financial position and a sustainable business model. This means demonstrating growth potential and a clear path to profitability.

Investors want to see that the company has a solid financial foundation and a plan for future growth. This can include a strong track record of revenue growth, a diversified customer base, and a clear understanding of the competitive landscape.

Additionally, having a sustainable business model is crucial. This means having a product or service that is in demand, a clear target market, and a plan for scaling the business. A strong business model can help attract investor interest and positive sentiment towards the company.

Enhancing Corporate Governance and Management

Corporate governance and effective management are also important factors in a successful IPO. Investors want to see that the company has a strong leadership team in place and a clear plan for managing the business.

Having a strong corporate governance framework can help ensure transparency, accountability, and ethical practices. This can contribute to investor trust, positively impacting the company’s reputation and share price.

Effective management is also crucial. This means having a team with the right skills and experience to lead the company through the IPO process and beyond. Investors want to see that the company has a plan for managing risk, executing on its growth strategy, and delivering value to shareholders.

Finally, navigating regulatory and legal requirements is a critical component of a successful IPO. Ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements and minimizing legal risks can help prevent delays or cancellations of the IPO.

It’s important to have a thorough understanding of the process and carefully address any legal or regulatory challenges. This can include working with experienced advisors, conducting thorough due diligence, and ensuring that all necessary disclosures are made.

By taking a proactive approach to regulatory and legal requirements, companies can improve their chances of a successful IPO and build investor confidence in the long-term.


Launching an IPO is a significant decision for any business. By understanding the factors contributing to IPO failures, notable IPO failures and their causes, and strategies for improving IPO success, companies can make informed decisions and maximize their chances of success. Proper planning, research, and execution are critical to making the IPO launch a successful one.

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