That was the title of a panel this morning at the AlwaysOn Innovation Summit at Stanford, and the answers didn't sound so great. It's not just the financial-disclosure act Sarbanes-Oxley, which a panel of tech bankers said was discouraging many companies from going public. There's also the poor performance of IPOs lately and the fact that large institutional investors have too much money to invest to put it into any but pretty huge IPOs, like Google. "M&A frankly in many instances is much more attractive" than going public, said Brian Bean, head of technology banking for Montgomery & Co. In fact, in a running poll on an overhead screen at the conference that asked online participants, "Given the burden of SarbOx compliance, are you more likely to sell your company or go public?", nearly three-quarters said they'd sell, and fewer than 8% said they'd do an IPO. Hard to say whether that's a permanent change, but if it is, the whole company-building establishment could be in for a shock.

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