The IPO exit route remains closed for the most part for venture-backed firms.

Accredited Home Lenders, which raised $77.2 million through an initial public offering recently, is the only US –based, venture-backed company to successfully execute an IPO, according to the National Venture Capital Association and Thomson Venture Economics.

In the fourth quarter of 2002, four companies executed IPOs.

The IPO news comes on the heals of preliminary statistics from Venture Wire that show the first quarter also was extremely slow for venture fundings. (See: )

“The venture industry has been looking for signs of life in the exit market. For now, it is not the IPO market,” said Jesse Reyes, vice president of Thomson Venture Economics, in a statement. “Hopefully the trade sale exit market will compensate.”

Twenty-three venture-backed firms carried through on IPOs in 2002, generating some $2 billion.

But the IPO market was inconsistent. While four firms went public in the first quarter of 2002 and 14 in the second, the number dropped to one in the third and four in the final quarter.

The entire IPO industry was sluggish in the first quarter of this year, generating three IPOs worth $295.8 million. The numbers were 26 and $3.4 billion in the fourth quarter.

“The combination of a struggling economy and now a war of uncertain length fosters an environment that is not that conducive for young startups to go public,” said Mark Heesen, president of the NVCA, in a statement.