Editor’s note: Venture Watch is a regular feature on Tuesdays.Richard Brown, general partner at Aurora Funds, had many reasons to be smiling at last week’s TechExec networking event.

One of Aurora’s investments, Blackboard, went public with what one news service called a “screeching” initial public offering on June 18. And the stock (Nasdaq: BBBB) has only gotten hotter since.

Blackboard, a developer of education applications for the “digital campus” went public at $14 a share for 5.5 million shares. Of those, 1.85 million were held by investors such as Aurora.

Blackboard went public on the basis of $100 million in annual revenues and a 46 percent market share in the growing online education space. The company launched in 1997.

The stock soared to $23.40 with a low of $15.50. It closed Friday at $20, down 30 cents.

IPOs surge in second quarter

The successful investment for Aurora was just one of many for venture firms in the second quarter.

IPOs by 29 venture-backed firms generated $2.1 billion in the second three-month period of the year, according to Thomson Venture Economics and the National Venture Capital Association.

The number of IPOs was the biggest since quarter three in 2000 — before the “dot com”, telecom and market crashes.

To put things in perspective, at the height of the Internet bubble, Q3 in 2000 included 87 IPOs.

But as Nasdaq and Wall Street maintain 2,000 and 10,000 levels, the IPOs do keep dribbling out. The NVCA/Thomson report stresses that IPOs have produced more than $1 billion in three consecutive quarters.

“The number of IPOs is quite remarkable,” said Jesse Reyes of Thomson Venture, in announcing the latest statistics. “Is this a mini-bubble? The number of IPOs, albeit at lower valuations than prior years, is quite healthy and right-sized for the current state of the market.”

But oh is the path to an IPO longer than in the go-go days when entrepreneurs founded companies and cashed out fast.

The NVCA/Thomson report shows that the average age of firms getting to an IPO is 6.9 years, up from 3.5 years in 1999.

Blackboard hit the average age right on the button.

Heard and seen

Inhibitix (Nasdaq: INHX) stock is holding steady after the company’s delayed IPO went ahead in June. The stock closed Friday at $7.08. Inhibitix offered 5 million shares at $7 — The IPO window is still not open for every firm that announces plans to go public. Worldspan recently put off its IPO — NuVasive, backed by A.M. Pappas, went public at $11 in May, and its stock opens today at $10.25.