While economic uncertainty was a big item in the news in 2011, a few companies took the plunge and switched from being private organizations to publicly traded companies. These transitions aren't always smooth, and even the excitement over a successful initial public offering (IPO) can fizzle out in a matter of weeks.
Perhaps no company better shows what a roller coaster the stock market can be than LinkedIn. The social network for professionals and job seekers held its IPO in May 2011. The initial stock price was $45 per share. By the end of the first day of trading, that price had jumped up 171 percent. At its highest point that day, the stocks sold at $122.70 before settling down to $94.25. The stocks lost some ground over the following months -- on Dec. 1, 2011, the stock price was $64.90 when the market opened [source: Google finance].
On Nov. 3, 2011, Groupon held its IPO. The service partners with stores and other services to offer regionalized discounts. On November 3, some 35 million shares of Groupon went for $20 a pop, raising a total of around $700 million. But the fast launch had a few hiccups along the way -- market volatility saw the price of stocks rocket up before plummeting back down to near the IPO price.
Two more companies that held IPOs in 2011 were Pandora, the Internet radio service, and Zynga, a company best known for games incorporated in social networks like Facebook and Google Plus. One company that didn't hold an IPO was Facebook itself, though rumors as of the time of this writing suggest it may not be far behind.