Four Decades of IPOs: An Overview

1 minutes reading time
Published 25 Apr 2024
Author: Emil Persson
Reviewed by: Kasper Karlsson

When looking back at the last four decades and what they’ve meant for the IPO market, it's impossible to not notice the significant transformations that have occurred. However, two things have remained a constant fact: companies see going public as a great way to expand, in bull market conditions companies are much more willing to go public, and vice versa. In times of optimism, and as in the case of the Dot Com bubble, euphoria, there is more often than not a surge of new IPOs. But during recessions or during times of uncertain markets and drawdowns, the opposite is true. The years between 1980 to 2020 witnessed pivotal changes in market dynamics, regulatory frameworks, technological advancements, and investor behavior. Each decade came with its own trends and challenges but with similarities running through all 40 years.

Key Insights

  • An overview of trends in the markets: A rundown of the defining characteristics of the markets and IPO landscape for every decade.

  • The most important events: An overview of important events such as crashes, recessions, and recoveries.

  • Notable IPOs: Examples of notable IPOs for every decade covered in the article.

The 1980s: Recession, Bull Market, and Black Friday

As calendars marked the beginning of a new decade and the 1970s made way for the 1980s, the markets were in turmoil. The economy was in a recession, and it laid as a heavy, wet blanket over both the stock and IPO market. The early 80s recession was the worst economic downturn since World War II, leading to cautious investment behaviors and an unwillingness from companies to go public. The recession would go on to last for two years, ending in 1982.

Coming out of the recession, the economy experienced a period of vigorous expansion, driven in part by significant deregulation across various sectors. This era set the stage for an IPO boom, particularly with the rise of technology companies. Deregulation under the Reagan administration played a critical role in facilitating IPOs by easing many restrictions that had previously governed the securities markets. This, coupled with a bullish stock market, created an environment ripe for public offerings. Companies across different sectors were eager to go public in order to fund expansion and innovation, and in the early to mid-1980s, things were on the up and up.

However, one event during the ‘80s is often what is remembered most in the minds of investors. While there had been some signs that might be cause for concern, mainly regarding inflation and the rising interest rates put in place to combat it, the markets showed little signs of slowing down. The IPO market had been very hot in the years leading up to 1987, fueled by the bullish market conditions. While a correction might have been somewhat overdue, nobody on the floor of the NYSE that fateful Monday had any idea what lay in store for them. The flash crash of October 19, 1987, sent the markets into a free fall as panic spread among investors. Black Monday, as it would go on to be known, sent indices into a nosedive, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average dropping over 22% over the course of a trading day.

Naturally, the aftermath of such an event was severe. The impact of the crash was global and led to a complete 180 turn in sentiment. Optimism and exuberance had been replaced with caution, and in many cases, fear. The IPO market cooled down significantly and investors and the markets were very skittish, but recovery started relatively quickly. However, the nervous and cautious sentiment lived on into 1988 with few IPOs being conducted in the wake of the crash. In 1989, another flash crash occurred, but this time it was much milder when compared to Black Monday.

Notable IPOs during the 1980s

While the 1980s were rocky, there was still a large number of notable companies that went public during the decade.


Apple, today one of the largest and most important companies in the world, completed its IPO in December of 1980.


Another influential tech company that made its public debut during the 80s was Adobe, which was listed on the Nasdaq in 1986.


One other notable IPO in 1986 was Microsoft, which was slowly but surely starting to dominate in the PC space during this time. Interestingly enough, the founder Bill Gates owned a 45% stake after the IPO. In the 10 years that followed, Microsoft stock would go on to increase more than 100 times over.


One of the largest and most influential athletic apparel brands in the world, Nike, went public in 1980.

Oracle Corporation

Oracle, which today is one of the largest software companies in the world, went public in 1986.

The 1990s: The Early 90s Recession and The Dot-com Bubble

Going into the 1990s the IPO market was relatively cool, and two events during 1990 would go on to influence the markets further. The first was Iraq's invasion of Kuwait and the subsequent coalition response that was to follow. The invasion and the geopolitical worries that arose from it came in conjunction with what would later be dubbed the early 90s recession. While the recession was relatively mild and short-lived (it officially ended in 1991, lasting just 9 months in total) it still had a profound impact on the IPO market. Companies were, for obvious reasons, hesitant to go public during a time of geopolitical instability and a rough economic outlook and it would take some time for the markets to rebound.

However, what investors and the general public think of first and foremost when discussing the markets and the IPO landscape of the 1990s was the Dot Com boom, followed by the inflation of a severe bubble, and the subsequent collapse of many internet and tech companies. Internet and tech stocks had begun to garner interest throughout the mid-1990s, but the Dot Com bubble began to inflate in earnest in 1996. In the years that followed until the very sudden and brutal downturn, a sense of euphoria and frenzy swept across the markets.

The true IPO craze kicked off in earnest in 1997. A massive amount of started going public, with a majority of them being focused on technology, or internet, or a mix of the two. The fervor for tech-driven companies during this period mirrored the wider technological revolution unfolding at that time. As the internet started to transform the business landscape, investors were eager to support companies that offered innovative solutions, promised rapid growth, and had the potential to lead in new technological sectors. This excitement around tech-related initial public offerings captured the overall market mood, characterized by a focus on future profits and a fear of missing out on the next big technological breakthrough. Investors were particularly keen on these opportunities, placing long-term bets on the internet's impact on the economy.

This enthusiasm led investors to largely ignore traditional valuation methods, focusing instead on prospective growth. The majority of tech companies then were operating at a loss, yet they promised sweeping changes across commerce, communication, and everyday activities. Consequently, the market grew increasingly disconnected from established financial principles. Valuations were frequently based more on speculative projections, user growth rates, or the basic concept of the companies rather than on robust financial metrics. While looking back this might seem extremely foolish, one must remember what the performance of newly listed tech and internet stocks looked like during the Dot Com boom. It was not uncommon for companies to double or triple their stock price during the first day of trading, only helping to exacerbate the situation. A critical metric for investment during this era was customer acquisition, often prioritizing it over profitability and well-structured business plans. The scramble to go public continued into 1998 and 1999 before the bubble burst in 2000.

Notable IPOs during the 1990s

While many of the companies that went public during the Dot Com bubble failed to turn their business strategies into successes, there were still a large number of notable companies that went public during the decade which are still around today.


Cisco, one of the world's leading digital communications companies, went public in 1990.


Coming out of the early 90s recession there were several notable IPOs during 1991, with Biogen being a clear standout.


The insurance giant Allstate completed its IPO in 1993.


Amazon, which then focused on selling books, went public in 1997.

Further Reading: The Story of Jeff Bezos and


NVIDIA, the darling of the AI boom, went public in 1999 as the Dot Com bubble continued to inflate.

Further Reading: The Story of Jensen Huang and NVIDIA

The 1990s: Year-by-Year

The 00s: Regulation, Bounceback, and 2008 Crisis

The beginning of the new millennium started with euphoria in the markets, before quickly turning over to despair. The Nasdaq reached a new all-time high during Q1, and then quickly started nosediving. Companies that had been valued solely on promises of transformative operations or customer acquisition started dropping like flies. Many businesses were found to be unviable, and a large number of companies started to collapse. This collapse continued into 2001 when a new set of events sent shockwaves through the markets: The terrorist attacks on 9/11.

Following the tumult of the dot-com bubble's burst, the 2000s were characterized by a heightened focus on corporate governance and regulatory oversight. The enactment of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act in 2002 marked a significant shift in the IPO landscape. This legislation introduced more stringent rules on financial transparency and accountability, fundamentally altering how companies approached going public.

While the markets were recovering from the Dot Com crash and geopolitical uncertainties, the number of companies deciding to conduct IPOs started to slowly but surely tick up throughout the mid-2000s. However, there were black clouds on the horizon. The 2008 economic crisis, which had begun in 2007 but kicked off in earnest the following year, sent the global economy into the most severe recession since the great depression. As you’re more than likely already aware, the impact on the markets was catastrophic. Several large banks either went under or had to be bailed out, and the confidence and trust in the public markets was at an all-time low. While the recession officially lasted until the summer of 2009, its impact continued to be felt well into 2010 and the decade that followed. The economic downturn also significantly impacted the IPO market, just as in every recession or period of caution in the markets. Going public during one of the worst economic crises ever was far from appealing for prospective IPO candidates, and those who had been eyeing a public more often than not decided to lay their plans on hold until more favorable conditions appeared.

The impact and the scars left by the 2008 crisis are impossible to understate. Banks that had previously been thought to be invincible were in serious trouble, and as previously mentioned, some didn't make it out alive. The downturn was so catastrophic and shook many high-level executives to their core, and it's not uncommon for the CEOs of institutions like Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, and similar companies to reference 2008. By utilizing Quartr Pro's search function, one can find several mentions of how CEOs and big banks are using the experience and lessons learned in 2008 to navigate tricky market conditions.

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Notable IPOs during the 2000s


The company behind one of the most popular tools for sales departments worldwide, Salesforce, went public in 2004.


Google (now Alphabet) went public in 2004.

Further Reading: Alphabet's Unstoppable Rise: From Stanford to Global Tech Leader


Visa was one of the very few companies to go public in 2008 and has since come to dominate the industry together with MasterCard.

Further Reading: Visa and Mastercard: The Global Payment Duopoly

Dollar General

While recessions are tough on all companies, those offering budget-conscious shopping alternatives tend to fare relatively well. The chain of discount retail stores Dollar General went public in 2009, during a time when their offerings were a welcome alternative for many shoppers.

The 2000s: Year-by-Year

The 2010s That Began With the Financial Crisis

The decade began in the shadow of the 2008 financial crisis and while the recession was officially over the IPO landscape was initially very cool as companies were looking for more favorable market slow as markets recovered. However, as confidence returned, the IPO market experienced significant growth and was overall very healthy throughout the 2010s. High-profile technology firms, including social media giants, ride-sharing platforms, and e-commerce behemoths, chose to go public, attracting considerable investor interest. The decade also witnessed a shift towards larger, late-stage rounds of financing in the private markets, allowing companies to grow substantially in valuation before choosing to go public. This trend led to the emergence of "unicorns" — privately held startups valued at over $1 billion. As a result, when these companies eventually launched IPOs, they did so at higher valuations and with more public anticipation.

Another characteristic of the IPO market during the decade was the trend of international companies seeking listings on American stock exchanges. The reasons for this are multifaceted, but can more often than not be boiled down to the simple fact that large companies want to be listed on the biggest (and most prestigious) exchanges in the world. While this wasn’t unheard of before the 2010s, this decade saw a significant uptick in companies from all over the world listing themselves on large American exchanges.

Notable IPOs during the 2010s

Many of the companies that have become part of the daily lives of millions and millions of people across the globe went public during the 2010s. Tech and innovative companies took most of the spotlight, there was a healthy mix of companies from a wide array of different sectors conducted IPOs.


Elon Musk's brainchild Tesla went public in the summer of 2010.

Further Reading: Elon Musk: SpaceX, Tesla, and Shaping the Future


Mark Zuckerberg's Facebook (Now Meta) went public in 2012 and has continued to shape the way most people utilize social media platforms.

Further Reading: Mark Zuckerberg: The Architect of Social Media


LinkedIn, the number one social media site for professionals, conducted its IPO in 2011, and were later acquired by Microsoft in 2016.


Few other companies have been as important in enabling e-commerce as Shopify. The company, spearheaded by Tobi Lütke, went public in 2015.

Further Reading: Shopify: Arming the Rebels


The ride-hailing app which turned the traditional taxi industry completely on its head, Uber, went public in 2019. Interestingly enough, it would take until 2023 for the company to post its first quarterly profits ever.

Further reading: Dara Khosrowshahi: The Visionary CEO Transforming Uber

The 2010s: Year-by-Year

The 2020s: A Brief Overview

While in some ways out of the scope of this broader overview of the last four decades, the beginning of the 2020s was far too eventful to leave without mention. 2020 started fairly uneventful, but the Covid-19 pandemic would change everything. The impact the pandemic had on the global economy was massive, and during March and April 2020 the markets were in a free fall.

While things looked bleak, government-led injections of cash and low-interest rates helped the market recover and it didn't take long for indices across the world to start pointing upward again. The bull run from the lows brought on by the pandemic was one for the ages, and a sense of unbridled optimism began to spread. During 2020 and into 2021, businesses looking to list themselves on the markets were utilizing SPACs more often than ever before as a means of going public. The relative ease with which companies could go public through SPACs combined with favorable market conditions led to a surge in IPOs.

However, the enthusiasm was not to last. Inflation was starting to take its toll, and soon central banks across the globe were forced to raise rates in order to curb it. This in turn led to a severe cooling of the markets and severe drawdowns during 2021 and 2022. This combined with Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the subsequent geopolitical fallout of the conflict only Naturally, the fall in the markets combined with the war also cooled off the IPO market significantly.

Notable IPOs During the Beginning of the 2020s


After Nvidia attempted to acquire Arm but was stopped by regulatory bodies, the company was listed in the fall of 2023.

Further reading: Arm's Smartphone Monopoly: Setting the Stage for Its IPO


The iconic sandal maker Birkenstock went public in 2023. Despite being based in Germany, the company opted to list its shares on the NYSE.

Further reading: Two And a Half Centuries of Sandal-Making: Birkenstock is Going Public


One of the pioneers of the retail investor revolution, Robinhood, was listed in 2021.


One of the few large and prestigious companies that went public in 2022 was Porsche, being received relatively well by investors.

Further reading: The Porsche Family’s Race to the Top

The 2020s: Year-by-Year

Closing Thoughts

While the purpose behind going public has stayed more or less the same in the last four decades, some things about the process have changed. More and more regulations have been put in place in order to protect investors and ensure full transparency from companies seeking public listings. The importance of market conditions being favorable in order to drive both willingness from companies to go public and investor interest has however remained a constant.

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