Ironwood goes public, more startups line up

Few venture- and private equity-backed companies have made market debuts recently.

But new filings indicate more are lining up at the gate.

At least five companies previously funded by venture capital and private equity firms have filed IPO prospectuses in the past two weeks, collectively seeking to raise more than $440 million.

Meanwhile, just one venture-backed U.S. company—Ironwood Pharmaceuticals—actually made it to market during that same period, and only after cutting its proposed price-per-share by nearly one-third.

Cambridge, Mass.-based Ironwood, which develops treatments for constipation and irritable bowel syndrome, made its debut last Thursday on the Nasdaq. The company priced its 16.7 million share offering at $11.25, well below the proposed maximum offering price per share of $16 listed in its IPO prospectus.

The stock rose in first-day trading, amid a down day for the broader market. Ironwood shares closed at $11.65, up 3.6% in first-day trading.

Ironwood raised about $187.5 million in the offering. The company’s largest venture and private equity stakeholders include Ridgeback Capital Investment (with a 13% stake), Venrock (11%), Polaris Venture Partners (8%) and Morgan Stanley (7%).

Ironwood raised $323 million in venture funding between 1998 and 2009, according to Thomson Reuters (publisher of PE Week).

Despite the slow public offering climate, would-be public companies continue to add their names to waiting list. The list includes one closely-watched company—electric car maker Tesla Motors—whose record of flashy products and red ink reads like a throwback to an era when public market investors looked more for potential than near-term profitability.

San Carlos, Calif.-based Tesla filed on Jan. 29 for a proposed $100 million IPO. The company reported a $31.5 million loss for the first nine months of 2009, down from a $57.3 million loss during the same period in 2008.

The company’s IPO registration statement said it expects continued losses until it begins making significant deliveries of its first sedan, the Model S, which is not scheduled to roll off of the assembly line until 2012.

The company, named after scientist and inventor Nikola Tesla, said in the filing it had sold 937 Roadsters (at a price of $109,000 per car) in 18 countries since it was founded.

The company has raised more than $220 million in VC funding from Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Daimler AG and VantagePoint Venture Partners, among others.

The six-year-old startup marks the first public offering from a U.S. automaker since Henry Ford’s Ford Motor Co. made its share debut in 1956.

It also represents a landmark in the resurgence of electric car technology that most carmakers until recently had dismissed as impractical. But Tesla’s IPO should generate enthusiasm for IPOs generally, say analysts.

Chairman Elon Musk has often expressed a desire to take his company public and had previously targeted late 2008 or 2009, but financial market turmoil after Lehman Brothers collapsed in late 2008 virtually shut down the IPO market.

“People are going to be watching this one move through the pipeline,” says Matt Therian, analyst with IPO research firm Renaissance Capital. “It’s probably a good sign for the IPO market.”

Others companies that registered to go public in the past two weeks include:

Douglas Dynamics, a Milwaukee-based maker of snow plows and salt spreaders for light trucks, filed for a $150 million IPO. The company reported sales of $125.2 million for the first three quarters of 2009, down 5.8% from the same period one year earlier. Shareholders include Aurora Capital Group (68.7% pre-IPO stake), Ares Corporate Opportunities (33.03%) and the GE Pension Trust (15.23%).

Vringo, a provider of video ringtone sharing tools, filed for a $64.3 million IPO. The New York-based company previously raised $12 million from backers, including Warburg Pincus.

GlassHouse Technologies, a provider of data protection and management services, filed for a $75 million initial public offering. The Framingham, Mass.-based company previously raised $77 million from backers including Sigma Partners, Globespan Capital Partners, Kodiak Venture Partners, GrandBanks Capital and Paladin Capital Management.

Convio, an Austin, Texas-based provider of online constituent relationship management solutions for nonprofit organizations, has filed for a $57.5 million IPO. It previously filed for an $86.25 million IPO in August 2007, but withdrew registration one year later, citing “unfavorable market conditions.” It has raised more than $47 million in VC funding from investors include Granite Ventures (20.1% pre-IPO stake), Austin Ventures (15.7%), El Dorado Ventures (9.2%), Adams Street Partners (8.9%), Silverton Partners (5.2%), Pacific Partners (2.8%) and Rembrandt Ventures (2.7%).

Reuters contributed to this report.