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Tech Bubble Death Watch: Pinterest And The Billion-Dollar Startup Club

The Huffington Post  |  By Posted: Updated: 05/18/2012 5:42 pm

Look out!

So, the Facebook IPO did not exactly take off like a rocket. That's a blow to those, like us, who see a tech bubble forming around every corner. But never fear, bubbleteers: There's hope in a herd of billion-dollar startups.

Upstart scrapbooking website Pinterest on Thursday nailed down $100 million in financing, which gives it a valuation of $1.5 billion. If you are surprised to hear this, then perhaps you have not been paying attention to the fact that a growing crowd of startups are worth a cool billion, writes Huffington Post small-business editor Nate Hindman.

The ranks include Twitter, Airbnb, Dropbox, Evernote, Square, and more, Nate points out in a helpful, traffic-friendly slideshow format. In fact, according to research firm PrivCo, there are 20 privately held internet companies now with valuations of $1 billion or more, the Wall Street Journal writes. In comparison, at the height of Tech Bubble 1.0, in the late 1990s, the Billion Dollar Club topped out at just 18, according to the WSJ.

This may not be evidence of a tech bubble -- inflation makes $1 billion worth a bit less today than in 1998, so you'd expect to see more $1 billion companies today than 14 years ago.

But consider: There are now nearly as many private Internet companies with $1 billion valuations as there are public Internet companies worth that much: The Facebook IPO pushed the number of publicly traded $1 billion Internet companies up to 22, Fortune's Dan Primack wrote in his "Term Sheet" newsletter this morning (no link available).

And it's not just the valuation that's an issue, but the quickness with which some of these companies have gotten so valuable. Pinterest, for example, was valued at $200 million in October, and as yet has no revenue. And then there's the attitude of the investors driving up their price. The WSJ writes:

The valuation frenzy is being driven by investors' desires to find the next big hit a la Facebook, and a belief that this time it's different with the new generation of Web companies. Many of the start-ups are experiencing strong growth—generally with users and sometimes also with their revenue—and are benefiting from a confluence of tech trends such as social media and mobile technologies that give these companies huge audiences.

Sounds awfully familiar. And it also sounds like the boom in billion-dollar babies deserves our second-ever Tech Bubble Death Watch rating. Like the one we gave Facebook's IPO, this one's a five.

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