IPO mistakes, fintech results and the Zenefits ‘mafia’

Welcome back to The TechCrunch Exchange, a weekly startups-and-markets newsletter for your weekend enjoyment. It’s broadly based on the weekday column that appears on Extra Crunch, but free. And it’s made just for you. You can sign up for the newsletter here

With that out of the way, let’s talk money, upstart companies and the latest spicy IPO rumors. 

(In time the top bit of the newsletter won’t get posted to the website, so do make sure to sign up if you want the whole thing!)

BigCommerce isn’t worried about its IPO pricing

One of the most interesting disconnects in the market today is how VC Twitter discusses successful IPOs and how the CEOs of those companies view their own public market debuts.

If you read Twitter on an IPO day, you’ll often see VCs stomping around, shouting that IPOs are a racket and that they must be taken down now. But if you dial up the CEO or CFO of the company that actually went public to strong market reception, they’ll spend five minutes telling you why all that chatter is flat wrong.

Case in point from this week: BigCommerce. Well-known VC Bill Gurley was incensed that shares of BigCommerce opened sharply higher after they started trading, compared to their IPO price. He has a point, with the Texas-based e-commerce company pricing at $24 per share (above a raised range, it should be said), but opened at $68 and is worth around $88 on Friday as I write to you.

So, when I got BigCommerce CEO Brent Bellm on Zoom after its debut, I had some questions. 

First, some background. BigCommerce filed confidentially back in 2019, planned on going public in April, and wound up delaying its offering due to the pandemic, according to Bellm. Then in the wake of COVID-19, sales from existing customers went up, and new customers arrived. So, the IPO was back on.

BigCommerce, as a reminder, is seeing growth acceleration in recent quarters, making its somewhat modest growth rate more enticing than you’d otherwise imagine.

Anyhoo, the company was worth more than 10x its annual run-rate at its IPO price if I recall the math, so it wasn’t cheap even at $24 per share. And in response to my question about pricing Bellm said that he was content with his company’s final IPO price. 

He had a few reasons, including that the IPO price sets the base point for future return calculations, that he measures success based on how well investors do in his stock over a ten-year horizon, and that the more long-term investors you successfully lock in during your roadshow, the smaller your first-day float becomes; the more investors that hold their shares after the debut, the more the supply/demand curve can skew, meaning that your stock opens higher than it otherwise might due to only scarce equity being up for purchase.

All that seems incredibly reasonable. Still, VCs are livid. 

Market Notes

The Exchange spent a lot of time on the phone this week, leading to a host of notes for your consumption. And there was a deluge of interesting data. So, here’s a digest of what we heard and saw that you should know:

  • Fintech mega-rounds are heating up, with 28 in the second quarter of 2020. Total fintech rounds dipped, but it appears that the sky is still pretty much afloat for financial technology startups.
  • Tech stocks set new records this week, something that has become so common that the new all-time highs for the Nasdaq didn’t really create a ripple. Hell, it’s Nasdaq 11,000, where’s our gosh darn party?
  • Axios’ Dan Primack noted this week that SPACs may be raising more money than private equity at the moment, and that there were “over $1 billion in new [SPAC] filings over past 24 hours” on Wednesday. I’ve given up keeping tabs on the number of SPACs taking place, frankly.
  • But we did dig into two of the more out-there SPACs, in case you wanted a taste of today’s market.
  • The Exchange also spoke with the chief solutions officer of Rackspace, Matt Stoyka, before its shares had started to trade. The chat stressed post-COVID-19 momentum, and the continuing cloud transition of lots of IT spend. Rackspace intends on lowering its debt load with a chunk of its IPO proceeds. It priced at $21, the lower-end of its range, so it didn’t get an extra debut check. And as the company’s shares are sharply under its IPO price today, there was no VC chatter about mispricing, notably. (That stuff only tends to crop up when the results bend in a particular direction.)
  • I also chatted with Joshua Bixby, the CEO of Fastly this week. The cloud services company wound up giving back some of its recent gains after earnings, which goes to show how the market is perhaps overpricing some public tech shares. After all, Fastly beat on Q2 profit, Q2 revenue, and raised its full-year guidance — and its shares fell? That’s wild. Perhaps the income it generates from TikTok was concerning? Or perhaps after racing from a 52 week low of $10.63 to a 52 week high of over $117, the market realized that Fastly could only accelerate so much.

Whatever the case, during our chat Fastly CEO Joshua Bixby taught me something new: Usage-based software companies are like SaaS firms, but more so.

In the old days, you’d buy a piece of software, and then own it forever. Now, it’s common to buy one-year SaaS licenses. With usage-based pricing, you make the buying choice day-to-day, which is the next step in the evolution of buying, it feels. I asked if the model isn’t, you know, harder than SaaS? He said maybe, but that you wind up super aligned with your customers. 

Various and Sundry

To wrap up, as always, here’s a final whack of data, news and other miscellania that are worth your time from the week:

  • TechCrunch chatted with Intercom, which recently hired a CFO and is therefore prepping to go public. But then it said the debut is at least two years away, which was a bummer. The company wrapped its January 31, 2020 fiscal year with $150 million ARR. It’s now much larger. Go public!
  • The Zenefits “mafia” raised a lot, and a little this week. “Mafia” is a terrible term, by the way. We should come up with a new one.
  • Danny Crichton wrote about SaaS revenue securitization, which was cool.
  • Natasha Mascarenhas wrote about learning pods, which aren’t super germane to The Exchange but struck me as incredibly topical to our current lives, so I am including the piece all the same.
  • I spoke with the CEO of Wrike this week, noodling on his company’s size (over $100 million ARR), and his competitors Asana and Monday.com. The whole cohort is over $100 million ARR each, so I might turn them into a post next week entitled “Go public you cowards,” or something. But probably with a different title as I don’t want to argue with 17 internal and external PR teams about why I’m right.
  • The Exchange also chatted with VC firms M13 (big on services, various domestic office locations, focus on consumer spend over time) and Coefficient Capital (D2C brand focused, super interesting thesis) this week. Our takeaway is that there is more juice, and focus on the more consumer-focused side of VC than you’d probably expect given recent data

We’ve blown past our 1,000 word target, so, briefly: Stay tuned to TechCrunch for a super-cool funding round on Monday (it has the fastest growth I can recall hearing about), make sure to listen to the latest Equity ep, and parse through the latest TechCrunch List updates.

Hugs, fistbumps, and good vibes,