Companies That Had Their IPO in 1996: Tech and Internet Domination

1 minutes reading time
Published 4 Apr 2024
Author: Emil Persson
Reviewed by: Kasper Karlsson

The market sentiment and IPO landscape in 1996 were marked by significant optimism and a surge in technology-driven companies going public, which played a central role in shaping the investment climate during the year. 1996 is often looked back at as when the dot-com bubble would start to inflate in earnest, something which would only increase in the coming years.

Key Insights

  • An optimistic market: The stock market continued its bullish upward momentum.

  • Tech and internet IPOs: The IPO landscape was dominated by tech and internet companies.

  • First-day gains: In what would prove to be a hallmark of the dot-com boom, many of the IPOs conducted in 1996 performed exceptionally well on their first day of trading.

  • Sky-high valuations: As would become emblematic of the dot-com years, many internet and tech companies were able to command high valuations, often despite lacking fundamentals like strong revenue or profit figures. The promise of future growth was a key factor in these valuations.

A Bullish Market and Tech IPOs

In 1996, the stock market was characterized by a bullish upward momentum that reflected the broader economic confidence of the time. The year, and the period in general, was marked by a robust performance in equity markets, where investors were keen on capitalizing on the growth potential of various sectors. Among these, technology and internet companies stood out, not only because of their innovative business models but also due to the transformative impact they promised on both the economy and society at large.

The IPOs of tech and internet companies became a defining feature for the year, capturing the imagination of both the investing public and the media. This surge in tech IPOs was reflective of a larger trend where the internet was beginning to reshape consumer behaviors and business strategies. As more people started to explore the possibilities offered by the internet, regardless of whether they were realistic or not, the enthusiasm for the growth prospects was only getting started and would continue to intensify in 1997, 1998, and 1999 before reaching a culmination in 2000 when the dot-com bubble burst.

First-day Frenzy

During the dot-com boom of the late 1990s, particularly starting around 1996, the stock market witnessed a remarkable trend of substantial first-day gains for the IPOs of internet-related companies. These significant increases in stock prices on the first trading day were driven by a combination of factors directly related to the market dynamics and perceptions of the tech sector at the time.

One of the primary reasons for these first-day gains was the aggressive pricing strategies employed by underwriters and the companies going public. Often, IPO prices were set at levels that, while seemingly optimistic, were conservative relative to the appetite of the market for new tech stocks. This underpricing was partly intentional, aimed at ensuring a successful launch and creating a buzz around the stock from day one. The year, and the period in general, also saw an influx of novice investors drawn by the allure of quick gains. Fueled by stories of substantial returns and the democratization of stock trading through online brokerages, these investors were often less discerning about the fundamentals of the companies they invested in. Their primary aim was to capitalize on the upward momentum, contributing to the surge in prices.

Finally, the media played a significant role in amplifying the success stories of these first-day gains, creating a self-reinforcing cycle of hype and investment. Each successful IPO fueled the narrative that the internet was an unprecedented opportunity, drawing even more attention and investment to subsequent public offerings.

Wishful Valuations

During the dot-com bubble the valuation of tech and internet-based companies soared to unprecedented heights, a phenomenon driven by the widespread enthusiasm for the transformative potential of the internet. This era was characterized by a fervent investment climate, where the novelty of the internet and its perceived ability to disrupt traditional business models led to a rush of capital into tech companies. Many of these companies commanded massive valuations despite lacking solid financial fundamentals such as strong revenue streams or profits. The promise of future growth and the fear of missing out on what was seen as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity propelled investors to pour money into startups with little more than a business plan and a ".com" in their name.

The internet was hailed as a revolutionary technology that would redefine commerce, communication, and entertainment, creating a "new economy" where the old rules of business were deemed obsolete. This perception led to a speculative investment frenzy, where the potential for rapid scaling, access to global markets, and the creation of entirely new industries overshadowed traditional measures of business success like profitability and revenue generation. Companies were often valued based on expected future market share or potential for growth rather than their current financial performance.

Notable IPOs in 1996

Dassault Systèmes

The software giant Dassault Systèmes had its IPO in 1996. It is part of the larger Dassault group together with Dassault Aviation.

Further reading: Dassault Systèmes: The French Software Titan


Acer completed its IPO on the Taiwan Stock Exchange in 1996.


Another computer company from Taiwan that conducted its IPO in 1996 was Asus, and its shares were also listed on the Taiwan Stock Exchange.


The financial data provider FactSet had its IPO in 1996.

Abercrombie & Fitch

But it wasn't just tech and internet companies that conducted IPOs in 1996; the apparel company Abercrombie & Fitch went public in the fall of 96.


Another company from a traditional industry that IPO'd during the year was the French automaker Renault. The company completed its public offering in 1996 and listed its shares on the Paris Stock Exchange.


The French video game developer and publisher Ubisoft went public on the Paris Stock Exchange in 1996.


E-trade which, as its name suggests, is an electronic platform that enables investing and trading of stocks and other financial assets. It has been a subsidiary of Morgan Stanley since 2020.


Digex was one of the first internet providers in the USA, and its stock price rose to over $180 during the dot-com bubble. But the good times were not to last, and the company was acquired for $1 a share a couple of years after the bubble burst.

Closing Thoughts

While 1996 didn't see the full euphoria and frenzy that the following years during the dot-com boom did, it's impossible to not notice the signs of the bubble forming when looking in the rearview mirror. In the years to follow, everything that happened during 1996 would continue in the same manner while also amplifying significantly in magnitude.

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