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September 25th, 2007
What has been lacking is a wave of nanotech initial public offerings, which would herald the industry's arrival to investors. The disappointing pace of deals in the sector reflects problems in the IPO market, according to Mr. Harris, as much as the sometimes confusing evolution of nanotech products.
Last year only 56 venture capital-backed companies went public in America, down from 250 in 1999. Venture capital has been upstaged by private equity in recent years, in part because the latter sector has profited better from the liquid credit markets. Private equity deals have become increasingly leveraged and have consequently produced outsized returns for investors, while venture capital firms have traditionally been loath to add to the already risky nature of their investments by borrowing. Also, the huge and ultimately catastrophic boom in technology venture capital in the late 1990s left a distinctly sour taste in the public's mouth. Needless to say, the current seizing up of the credit markets could change the playing field.
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