Dec.31- It's been a trying year for much-hyped technology companies Facebook, Zynga and Groupon who each saw their stock drop dramatically after going public. Reuters Technology Correspondent Matt Cowan explores what lessons can be learned, and what's next for the tech sector.
2012 began with great expectations for the tech sector. The long-awaited Facebook IPO was set for May and two other hot startups - Zynga and Groupon - had just gone public. The tech eco-system seemed to be ticking along nicely, with fresh ideas going in one side and tremendous value coming out the other. Well, as the year comes to a close, the picture looks much different. Enthusiasm has waned, along with those stock prices. Facebook, which listed at 38 dollars per share, valuing the company at over 100 billion dollars saw an initial spike before starting to fall back. It hit a low point of 17.55 on September 4 but has regained about half of that lost ground in subsequent months. Shares in the social gaming company Zynga, which listed at 10 dollars per last December are hovering around a quarter of that value. The daily deals site Groupon - once hailed as the fastest growing company in history - has also seen a steep decline from its IPO in November 2011. Speaking to Reuters TV at the recent LeWeb technology conference in Paris, David Kirkpatrick, author of The Facebook Effect which charts the social network's rapid rise says it would wrong to write it off. SOUNDBITE:David Kirkpatrick, Techonomy Founder, saying (English): "First of all, I absolutely reject the notion that Facebook, Groupon and Zynga are a common situation. Groupon and Zynga are companies that are currently imploding because they were basically one trick ponies that couldn't sustain that probably could have been perceived to be unsustainable from the very beginning. Facebook is a platform company that has tremendous long-term prospects. It may or may not fulfill all of its opportunities, but it still has tremendously positive potential." Still, the stock performance of these three much-hyped companies does raise questions about how value can be accurately assessed and ascribed in the digital age... It's a question we brought up with investors and entrepreneurs at the Dublin F.ounders conference in October. SOUNDBITE:Brian Wong, Kiip Founder, saying (English): "Yeah I think Wall Street has very different perceptions of the tech ecosystem than the people who are in it." SOUNDBITE:MG Siegler, CrunchFund saying (English): "There's a big emphasis now, you're seeing these days with early stage companies on revenue first. Rather than worrying about that down the road." SOUNDBITE:Eric Wahlforss, SoundCloud Founder, saying (English): "It sets the macro tone in the industry when there are these big companies struggling. You start questioning whether that's a viable option to go to an IPO." SOUNDBITE:David Kirkpatrick, Techonomy Founder, saying (English): "The entire economy continues to be transformed by Internet companies and if you don't see that. If you don't recognize the pace at which society and business is changing you're going to miss gigantic opportunities as an investor, as an individual, as a business leader, whatever." So if Facebook does not become the next Google, as many investors had clearly hoped, what will that mean for the newer breed of companies looking to go public?