Perhaps in the future, unicorns will go public while going public is possible
Fintech startups are taking the downturn harder than most other sectors, data indicates. So much so that even the largest and best-known private fintech companies are suffering from embarrassing revaluations.
Data collected by Andreessen Horowitz, a well-known venture capital firm with a history of investing in financial technology — most recently, crypto — shows that public fintech companies are suffering from greater valuation declines than other technology categories. At the same time, new information from Fidelity’s various funds indicates that the investing giant has changed its mind about the worth of some of startup land’s highest-flying companies, including Stripe.
The Exchange explores startups, markets and money.
There is a well-worn chestnut in Silicon Valley that no matter the market conditions, the best startups will always be able to raise. The argument implies that during looser market conditions, as we saw in parts of 2020 and 2021, startups with less core strength will be able to raise capital only to later struggle when the market turns. In contrast, the best startups, no matter the macro situation, will plug along.
In one sense, the saying is a tautology; of course the best companies will have the highest chance of success — they are, after all, the best companies. In another sense, it’s a narrow comment. Yes, the best startups will always be able to raise. But at what price?
Left unsaid is the fact that even the private-market upstarts that have collected the most plaudits, valuation, capital and revenue during a boom may endure a repricing when the market shifts. That’s what’s going on with Stripe, though we shouldn’t be too shocked given the cyclone of data points supporting Fidelity’s latest. Let’s explore.
What’s Stripe worth?
Let’s start with a broad look at the value of technology companies. The Bessemer Cloud Index has lost more than half its value since late-2021 highs, with the basket of modern software companies falling from a peak of $65.51 to just over $30 today. If we slice the market more finely, we can see even greater valuation compression in fintech.
Enter Future, a16z’s in-house publication that it built during a fit of anti-media sentiment among the technology class. Per this piece on the investing group’s blog, public fintech companies’ valuations peaked at around a 25x forward revenue multiple in October 2021. Since then, the same fintech cohort of stocks has fallen to around 4x their forward revenue (we’re reading from a chart, so the data cited here is more directional than exact).
Other categories of public tech company saw sharp declines, like enterprise companies’ peak forward multiples falling from perhaps 16x or 17x to around 7x. But no category took more stick since the 2021 bubble burst than fintech. (This is one reason why we are not seeing fintech IPOs this year, among other contributing factors.)
From that perspective, seeing Fidelity revalue its stake in Stripe is not a surprise.
To get a feel for how Fidelity has valued and revalued its Stripe stake over time, we’ll pull from Business Insider and Bloomberg reporting, as well as filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission: