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Unicorn rodeo: 6 high-flying startups that are set to go public

If we omitted your favorite IPO candidate, tweet @Alex for customer service


Image Credits: Nigel Sussman (opens in a new window)

This week Airbnb announced that it has privately filed to go public, putting the famous unicorn on a path to a quick IPO if it wants. The recent move matches reporting indicating that the home-sharing upstart could yet go public in 2020 despite the collapse of the travel industry.

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But Airbnb is not the only venture-backed company of note that is looking to go public at the moment, or that has privately filed to go public. Indeed, so many unicorns are looking to get out the door in the next quarter or two, I’ve started to lose track of their status.

So, this morning, let’s gather a digest of each unicorn that has filed privately, is expected to debut shortly, or may go public in the next year or two. We’re talking Airbnb, Asana, ThredUp, Qualtrics, Palantir and Ant first (Update: And Affirm!), and then more loosely about the huge cadre of companies that could go public before the end of 2022, like UIPath, Intercom, and, sure, Robinhood as well.

Today is Friday, which means we can afford to take a minute, center ourselves and make sure that we’re ready for the news that next week will inevitably bring. So let’s have a little fun.

Upcoming unicorn IPOs

In order to keep this digestible, we’ll proceed in bulleted-list format. Starting with the biggest news, let’s remind ourselves of Airbnb’s decline and recovery, starting with revenue numbers:

  • Airbnb has filed to go public and is expected to raise capital in its debut. While its filing is currently private, the company likely wouldn’t kickstart the process this early in its recovery from COVID-19-related issues if it didn’t mean to follow through. So, we can anticipate a somewhat-speedy offering provided that things don’t change again. Airbnb’s Q2 revenue fell by at least 67% from $1 billion or more to $335 million in the period, per Bloomberg. So, the late-Q2 and Q3 rebound story are likely the strength that Airbnb intends to lean on when it does debut.
  • Palantir is wrapping up a funding round and is, once again, expected to go public sometime soon. The intelligence-focused software-and-services company filed privately to go public back in July. We’ve been awaiting a public filing ever since. Precisely what Palantir is (software, services, or a hybrid), and how big it has become (the company has been flirting with $1 billion in revenue for what feels like years) are open questions. As is the value of the company.
  • Asana filed privately to go public in February of 2020 and was recently tipped to be considering a direct listing on the NYSE. The workplace productivity software provider has raised debt this year to the tune of $200 million or so, meaning that it likely has all the capital it needs. And since the funds were raised as a convertible note, the company can direct list, convert to shares post-debut and everyone is happy. Provided that money stays cheap (low interest rates making debt instruments of this sort enticing), and the Asana direct listing goes well (strong performance from a valuation perspective), consider this the model for future unicorn liquidity. We are stoked to see what happens.
  • Qualtrics is going public at last, despite having been snapped up by SAP before its first debut. Since then, SAP has gotten a new CEO and Qualtrics has apparently found the exit. The Utah-based survey software firm was looking for a valuation of around $4 billion back in 2018. Given growth since then, it may be able to crush that figure. Could Qualtrics make for a decacorn debut? Qualtrics was on a run rate of around $790 million in its most recent quarter. So, the answer is yes.
  • ThredUp is going public next year, per reports. The used-goods marketplace wants to raise a few hundred million after raising a little over $300 million while private, including a huge $175 million round in 2019. The company had around $150 million in revenue in 2019 and what the WSJ called “narrow losses” in the year. We presume that $150 million figure is not GMV, of course. This one is exciting given how little we know about it compared to say, yet another SaaS company.
  • Ant Financial is going public, looking to raise around $30 billion at a valuation of around $225 billion. Why such huge numbers? Because, as the Journal reports, the company had profits of around $3.5 billion in the first half of 2020. That’s a lot of damn profit. Indeed, annualized, at a 25x SaaS revenue multiple, Ant would be worth $175 billion. Perhaps that $225 billion number has space to grow. Dual listings could come in the next few weeks, though the company is not expected to list in the United States.
  • Affirm is also heading to the public markets, even if we don’t have a private IPO filing yet. The company is said to be targeting a $5 to $10 billion valuation, which we tinkered with a little bit here. Affirm is a fintech unicorn, working with installment loans and online commerce platforms. The company was originally best known as being part of the Max Levchin world, though it has outgrown its founding team’s reputations to stand on its own two feet. We cannot wait to see the gross margins it can put up when we get the S-1.

Got all that? It’s a lot, and those are just summaries! We could rabbit-hole even deeper on each if we had the time.

But, instead of doing all of that, let’s keep tabs on a few companies we think are in the next class of unicorns to go public. Sure, between the following and the above there will be a raft of VC-backed SaaS companies. We’ll write about them. But it’s the following companies that we’re more excited about.

Companies we anticipate going public before 2022 (that aren’t making much noise now)

Where to start? How about with some companies we’ve covered recently:

  • Robinhood raised all of God’s money this year because it’s been growing like hell and has the revenue to backstop new, higher valuations. But provided that its trading volume and growth can keep up into 2021, why this popular consumer fintech focused on trading couldn’t go public is beyond us. And why wouldn’t it? Do you think Robinhood customers don’t want to own Robinhood stock? An easy layup, we’d say, and because the company is now worth comfortably more than $10 billion, it would be a goddamn event of an IPO.
  • Intercom refuses to go public even though it is big enough to do so. It has a new CFO. We’ve written about it. The company wants to mature before it debuts, which makes good sense. It can go public later, but we’d prefer it to get on with it as we want to see the numbers.
  • UIPath is a big deal in the RPA world and has self-reported that it scaled from $100 million ARR in July 2018 to $360 million ARR in December 2019. By mid-year, that number was $400 million, a number it shared when its valuation crossed the $10 billion mark after the firm added $225 million in capital to its accounts. Go public, UIPath, you can do it!

And then there’s GitLab, Egnyte and pretty much every other company on the $100 million ARR list.

We’ve broken through our soft word count cap this morning, so to wrap there are so very many other companies that could debut soon that we’ve looked into. You could add DigitalOcean to the mix, or A Cloud Guru, Snow Software, Snowflake Computing, Upgrade, ActiveCampaign, Recorded Future and ON24 and on and on.

The backlog is huge. But given the lack of rumblings about these companies, we can’t really forecast their arrival sooner than inside the next two years. If you know more, do let us know.

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