Facebook IPO May Value Company at $77 to $96 Billion

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"It used to be, if you went," says Sweet, who figures he's attended 95 road shows over 39 years, "that you'd get a coffee cup—or something—with the company's name on it. Now they've even cut back on that. You might some small token, some souvenir. But Facebook? Believe me, they know they need to give away nothing."

"It's a pretty intense thing," says an entrepreneur who took his company public in 2009. "A huge amount of effort goes into these things, and sometimes just a hiccup can disrupt the whole thing." He refers to fluctuations in the IPO market itself. "We were looking to go public as early as '08, but then the capital markets slammed shut. We got out in a little window in '09, and then it shut again. Everything's got to fit just right: the story, the timing, the price."

The tours are physically demanding. Says the same entrepreneur, "You go to bed in Kansas City, next day you host a breakfast in Chicago, you get a few hours' sleep in Minneapolis, then you're hosting dinner for 80 at the Carlyle in New York. We had 60 meetings in two weeks."

To keep himself and his fellow presenters awake and sharp, he says, and to stave off boredom, he would make up little games. "One day we decided that every presentation we made that day would somehow have to mention shrimp, hermaphrodites, and a sign of the zodiac."

Facebook execs, if they get bored, can always post things to their walls.

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