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Peloton’s IPO Filing Is Yet Another Example of Companies Going Oprah

August 28, 2019, 6:23 PM UTC

Exercise equipment maker Peloton raised eyebrows over how it described itself in its filing for an initial public offering on Tuesday.

“On the most basic level, Peloton sells happiness,” Peloton CEO John Foley wrote, sounding more like a self-help guru. “But of course, we do so much more.”

The filing went on to call Peloton “a technology company, a media company, an interactive software company, a product design company, a social connection company, a DTC retail company, an apparel company, and a logistics company.”

That’s a lot.

Peloton isn’t the only company aspiring for an IPO to lay it on thick. Oprah-speak has become so common in S-1 filings, traditionally a dry run-down of financial minutiae, that it’s practically become its own literary genre.

Below are several examples from this year’s IPO filings.


What it says it does: “We sell happiness.”

What it actually does: It makes people sweat (and if they become addicted to it, all the better because it drives retention, the company acknowledged in its filing). The company sells home exercise equipment, including bikes and treadmills, for upwards of $2,000. It also has 1.4 million members, and claims that 92% of the connected fitness products it has sold still had an active subscription associated with them as of June 30.

The We Company (WeWork)

What it says it does: “We are a community company committed to maximum global impact.” (The word “community” is mentioned 150 times in the S-1.)

What it actually does: WeWork rents co-working office space, typically to tech startups. It also loses a lot of money. In full year 2018, it burned through $1.6 billion on $1.8 billion in revenue. One person may see WeWork as a company hemorrhaging money, while it sees itself as a “a place to bring people together, build community and enhance productivity”— cucumber water and beer bashes included.


What it says it does: “We provide a video-first communications platform that delivers happiness and fundamentally changes how people interact.”

What it actually does: Here’s yet another company that claims it will make you happier. Zoom is a video conferencing business that sells subscriptions to teams that want to get face time with remote employees. Zoom is basically a fancy video version of the dreaded conference call, and I’m not sure how much happiness that creates.


What is says it does: “Pinterest is where more than 250 million people around the world go to get inspiration for their lives.”

What it actually does: There’s a reason Pinterest is pitching itself as a destination for inspiration. People often visit Pinterest when they want to plan a wedding, re-decorate their homes, or learn to cook. And what better pitch to advertisers (which is how Pinterest makes its money, after all) than the idea that people are visiting the site while contemplating a lifestyle change that requires big spending?

More must-read stories from Fortune:

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—Why WeWork won’t be in the S&P 500 after its IPO
—Is it “only human” to feel anxious about money? Talking finance with Sophia the Robot
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—Listen to our audio briefing, Fortune 500 Daily
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