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为什么创业公司的晚期估值像火箭般飙涨?

Glenn Solomon 2015年03月05日

热门私营企业的估值变得越来越高,之所以出现这样的结果,劳苦功高的不只是企业自身,还有市场环境。

    

    多家获得风投支持的私营企业迅速获得了极高的估值增长。在硅谷和私营科技企业中,这种现象显然已经存在了一段时间。然而,最近其估值的提升幅度和频率仍令我感到震惊。我一直在努力搜集形成这种环境的各种因素——我的最终得出的结论是:稀缺性、市场动力、担心坐失良机的心理和收益。

    1. 稀缺性

    尽管年初以来股市表现一般,但私募市场的估值水平继续迅速蹿升。为什么会出现这样的反差呢?一个主要原因就是稀缺性。私营企业并不是每天都会融资。如果想投资某家私营公司,风投资本一年也许只有一次机会。这些公司以往的大规模融资表明,激烈的竞争自然而然地会将这些少有的机会留给最有吸引力的企业。因此,在竞争中胜出的风投普遍都遵循这样的逻辑:“虽然从基本面(或者由于缺乏基本面)来看,这笔投资现在看起来似乎是个不小的数目,但随着这家公司的成长,其价值将大幅提升,因此这笔投资在将来可能会变得十分物有所值。”

    与之相反,股市投资者不会遇到此类稀缺性问题。在他们的投资领域,公司股票每天都可以按一定的价格进行买卖。对这些投资者来说,不存在什么稀缺性,他们需要的只是明智而及时地做出选择。因此,上市股票的估值往往以现有业绩和对短期财务表现的预期为基础,所以更加合理。当然,也有很贵的上市公司,但它们的高估值来自于相当广泛的需求,就连刚刚首发上市,流动性有限的新股也是如此,这和赢得私营企业投资权的风投给出的高价完全不同。

    2. 市场动力

    此类估值上升的幅度和频率一直未见减弱(而且还有可能不断增强)的另一个原因在于,当稀缺投资机会出现时,采用高报价策略一般都得到了回报。随着更多资金涉足这个由风投支持的高增长“资产类别”(它真的已经超出了某一类资产的范畴),竞相抬价的动力有增无减。因此,只要具有吸引力的公司开始融资,就一定会出现竞争,而在竞争中脱颖而出的风投就会把这些公司的估值提升到另一个新的水平。在更高的估值鼓舞之下,现有参与者已经变得十分激进,新的资金也不断参与进来,市场动力愈发强劲。

    Several private, venture-backed companies have achieved rapid and extreme valuation mark-ups. This has obviously been going on for some time now in Silicon Valley and the private tech sector, but the magnitude and frequency of the recent write-ups has given me pause. I’ve been trying to piece together the ingredients that are creating this environment, and it comes down to the following: Scarcity, momentum, FOMO and gains:

    1. Scarcity

    Despite the fact that public market stock performance has been muted so far this year, private market valuations continue to surge upwards. Why this dichotomy? One big factor is scarcity. Private companies don’t raise money every day. If a VC wants to invest in a company, she may only get the option once a year. Given all the big funds that have been raised, fierce competition naturally ensues for these scarce slots in the most attractive companies. As a result, the prevailing logic of the winning bidder tends to be along the lines of “this might look expensive today based on fundamentals (or lack of fundamentals), but this will look like a great price down the road when this company is worth much more as it grows.”

    Contrast this with public market investors who don’t face the same scarcity problem. There is a price every day for the shares of the companies in their universe. For public market investors, there is no scarcity, only a need to pick wisely and in a timely manner. As a result, valuations tend to make more sense based on current and near term future expected financial performance. Sure, there are expensive public stocks but, even for newly IPO’d companies with limited public floats, high multiples are driven by fairly broad-based demand versus a high price based on the winner of a scarcity auction.

    2. Momentum

    Another reason the magnitude and frequency of write ups hasn’t abated (and may be increasing) is that the strategy of overpaying in the scarcity auctions for the most attractive companies has generally paid off. As more capital has entered the high growth, venture-backed “asset class” (it’s really more of an asset niche), the dynamics have only intensified. So, each time an attractive company has opened its gates to new capital, the ensuing competition has driven valuations even higher for the winning bidder. Emboldened by these write-ups, existing players have stayed aggressive and more new capital has entered the system. The momentum has continued to build.

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