Tech companies are marching en masse to public markets through direct listings, blank cheque shell companies or initial public offerings.
Shares in palantir, a data group with cia links, and office tools provider asana start trading on wednesday via direct listings. these are alternatives to traditional ipos in which no new capital is raised.
Opendoor, the real estate tech company, and chargepoint, one of the oldest electric vehicle infrastructure companies, have declared they will go public through a special purpose acquisition company (spac) merger.
More conventionally, cyber security company mcafee has filed for an initial public offering. so has online clothes resale marketplace poshmark.
The resurgent ipo mania is impressive amid economic uncertainty and a coronavirus crisis that means most deal pitches must be conducted by video meetings. little surprise that allusions are being made to the heady days of the dotcom boom. but 2020 is unlikely to match the previous two years for listings let alone 1999.
Last year, there were 159 us ipos, according to statista data. the year before that, there were 192. it will be hard for 2020 to catch up after a prolonged quiet period. but there is a chance that on one metric it could do better. some of last years most hyped next generation tech stocks have performed poorly as public companies. lyft and uber still trade below their listing price. wework didn't even make it to the starting block. slack, which went public via a direct listing, has underperformed.
By contrast, 2020 has already chalked up a number of success stories. earlier in september, cloud data warehousing company snowflake went public the largest software ipo to date. its initial market value of more than $33bn made headlines because it was almost triple the last valuation private investors had given earlier that year. yet even this inflated figure underestimated public demand. snowflakes market capitalisation is now $70bn.
In the same week that snowflake listed, software company jfrog joined markets at a value of about $4bn. it now trades with an equity value close to $8bn. earlier in the year, marketing software company zoominfo priced its shares at $21. they now trade at just below $40 each.
These rising valuations reflect both high demand for software company services and the broader recovery of the stock market, which fell sharply in the early days of the pandemic but has since ticked back up. the s&p 500 is up 50 per cent from the low point in march and slightly up in the year to date.
What happens now? the immediate repercussion of successful tech listings is going to be more of them. companies that have remained private for years will be watching to see how long the window stays open.
Longer term, however, there may be a fresh wave of mergers and acquisitions, investments and new companies.
In tech, returns from successful exits (including ipos or acquisitions) are often funnelled back into the industry. look at palantir. co-founder peter thiel is part of the jokingly named paypal mafia. these former paypal executives and workers went on to create or fund successful tech companies after ebay bought paypal in 2002 for $1.5bn.
In addition to palantir, mr thiel, a former paypal chief executive, also set up venture capital firm founders fund, which has backed companies including airbnb. reid hoffman, former chief operating officer at paypal, went on to co-found linkedin. elon musk, also briefly paypal chief, joined tesla and founded spacex. another former paypal chief operating officer, david sacks, invested early inairbnb and slack. meanwhile, three employees, jawed karim, chad hurley and steve chen, went on to launch youtube.
There may well be irrational exuberance at play in the rising valuations of tech companies. but successful listings this year could plant the seeds for the next round of tech giants.
Enjoy the rest of your week,
Elaine mooredeputy head of lex