This paper addresses the role that scientific status plays in initial public offerings of technology focused firms. The paper builds on the literature of the sociology of science as well as the work of Spence (1974) and Podolny (1993) and argues that the presence of a Nobel laureate affiliated with a firm making an IPO provides a signal of firm quality to potential investors. Moreover, and building on the work of Podolny and Scott Morton (1999) and Stuart et al. (1999) we hypothesize that the importance of status diminishes as other measures of firm quality become available. We test our hypothesis for two periods of initial public offerings in biotechnology. We document that there is a clear difference in “maturity” of the firms across the two windows on a number of metrics. Consistent with our hypothesis that Nobel laureates play an important role as a non-financial signal of firm quality, we find that first-window firms with a Nobel laureate affiliate realize greater IPO proceeds in the amount of $24 million. In the second window the amount of money raised is not significantly different between Nobel and non-Nobel firms. This finding is consistent with the signaling literature that argues that the importance of a signal is inversely related to the availability of cogent information on firm quality. Consistent with this view, we also find a change between the two windows in the importance of other non-financial metrics used to convey value. Our research is one of the first to examine the dynamic nature of signals. Because we are unable to distinguish the extent to which the reduction in uncertainty at the firm level is correlated with the reduction of uncertainty at the industry level, the question remains as to the extent to which the diminished importance of signals in our second period is due to a change in market uncertainty versus a change in firm uncertainty.
Financed by the National Centre for Research and Development under grant No. SP/I/1/77065/10 by the strategic scientific research and experimental development program:
SYNAT - “Interdisciplinary System for Interactive Scientific and Scientific-Technical Information”.