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What Happens When Investors Don’t Want to ‘Buy Happiness’ Anymore: Term Sheet

September 27, 2019, 1:18 PM UTC

Looks like fitness equipment maker Peloton had a hard time “selling happiness” to public investors. The company began trading at $27 per share—but dropped over 14% from its initial price offering at $29 per share (which would earn them over an $8 billion valuation)—closing down over 11%.

That was enough to spook other IPO hopefuls — in fact, one even pulled its IPO! Endeavor reportedly yanked its offering following the poor performance of Peloton’s public debut. That’s the second time the entertainment company has abandoned flotation plans this year.

But it doesn’t look like Peloton CEO John Foley is sweating it. “I think we priced right,” he said. “The markets are jittery for all kinds of macro and micro reasons, but we are happy.” (I’m starting to lose patience for the words “happy” and “happiness.”)

In fact, Foley told CNBC’s “Squawk Box” that the company even “left something on the table in terms of pricing.” In addition to being a fitness brand, Foley added, Peloton is squarely in retail, logistics, hardware, software, apparel and media because, like Spotify, it has to license music. 

Meanwhile, the company is spending $50 million in both London and New York to open studios for yoga, boot camps and cycling. “I feel like we’re six or seven different companies in one,” Foley said. “It is a unique modern company that’s singularly focused on one experience of better fitness in the home, but in order to get there, we had to do a lot of things.”

One of those things involves spending lots and lots of $$$$$$$$. Here’s what Foley told Fortune that boggles my mind: “[Investors] want high growth — and in our case hyper-growth — so we plan to delight investors that see that our decision to prioritize growth over profitability is a good one.” 

Ah yes, growth over profitability. Truly a delightful proposition. One every investor longs for. It’s a cliché that every founder attempts to sell to the public. Who cares if you’re losing billions of dollars as long as you’re growing? As long as you’re selling happiness? To hell with profitability, they want investors to think, you’ve got to be on the ~future~. 

The bottom line is that growth sells. Investors today are maybe more willing to overlook profitability so long as there’s a promise for long-term growth. But there may come a day when we see all of this spending come crashing down. 

“I would say in general, investors have become a little less risk-tolerant in recent months,” Nick Einhorn, vice president of research at Renaissance Capital, told Fortune. “Peloton is obviously unprofitable at the moment. I think there’s some questions about the long-term prospects, … the valuation is a little tricky on this—it’s sort of a product company but it’s sort of a subscription service.”

One key thing CEOs who plan to go public need to keep in mind: The bar’s higher in the public markets. 

FAMILY & FRIENDS: As WeWork seeks to shape up and slim down for a second run at going public, the company is making some dramatic changes: selling the company’s private jet, selling a trio of businesses it’s acquired in recent years, and laying off potentially thousands of workers. 

Former CEO Adam Neumann had been known to place family and friends in positions of power. His wife, Rebekah, was initially given significant power to choose WeWork’s next CEO, though investors balked at that idea, and the company has reportedly taken it off the table.

Vice President of Operations and Special Projects Zvika Shachar is known to be a childhood friend of Neumann’s while Director of Development Roni Bahar reportedly went to college with the founder. It’s also widely known that Chris Hill, the chief product officer and CEO of WeWork Japan, is Neumann’s brother in law. He has since left the firm, alongside a long-time friend of Neumann’s, Michael Gross. Gross was vice chairman of the firm. 

In all, 20 friends and family members of Neumann and his wife could be shown the door, according to The Wall Street Journal. 

Read more.

WEEKEND READING: “Anyone who has taken an Uber, sent a Slack message or enjoyed a free beer at a WeWork owes a little something to Masayoshi Son.” That’s how this New York Times deep-dive into Softbank’s Son and his aggressive strategy begins. It delves into how his investments have enabled young companies to throw caution to the wind and run up big losses as they expanded at a breakneck pace in recent years. But this year, his grand designs collided with reality. Read the feature here.

JUST FOR FUN: Because it’s Friday, allow me to share something I discovered recently. There are now VC stickers in the form of an iMessage app called VC Sticker App. It has stickers like “#ProudInvestor,” “Product Market Fit (with a unicorn illustration),” and most importantly, “I read that on Term Sheet.”

VENTURE DEALS

- ECOR, a San Diego-based manufacturer of materials from waste, raised $40 million in funding. The investors were not named.

- Arceo.ai, a San Francisco-based provider of a cyber risk analytics and insurance platform, raised $37 million in funding. Lightspeed Venture Partners and Founders Fund led the round.

- Booksy, a San Francisco-based online marketplace for appointment-driven beauty services, raised $28.5 million in Series B2 funding. Investors include Piton Capital, XG Ventures, and Zach Coelius.

- Zylo, an Indianapolis-based operator of an enterprise SaaS optimization platform, raised $22.5 million in Series B funding. Menlo Ventures led the round, and was joined by investors including Bessemer Venture Partners, High Alpha, Revolution’s Rise of the Rest Seed Fund, Salesforce Ventures and the Slack Fund.

- Primary, a New York-based e-commerce children’s apparel brand, raised $20 million in Series C funding. Investors include USVP, Mighty Capital and Homebrew Ventures. 

- Honeycomb raised $11.4 million in funding. Scale Venture Partners led the round, and was joined by investors including Storm Ventures, eVentures, NextWorld Capital and Merian Ventures. 

- Fetch, a Dallas-based off-site package solution for apartment communities, raised $10.5 million in Series A funding. Signal Peak Ventures led the round, and was joined by investors including Silverton Partners and Capital Factory.

- Paro, a Chicago-based network of on-demand financial professionals, raised $10 million in funding. Investors include Sierra Ventures, Revolution Ventures, KGC Capital, and Tom Williams.

- Mednition, a Burlingame, Calif.-based provider of machine learning powered solutions for healthcare, raised $10 million in Series A funding. Concord Health Partners led the round.

- Evernym, a Salt Lake City, Utah-based provider of self-sovereign identity solutions, raised $8 million in funding. Investors include Barclays Ventures and Medici Ventures.

- DeadHappy, a U.K.-based life insurance provider, raised £4 million ($4.9 million) in Series A funding. Investors include e.ventures and Octopus Ventures.

- Package Free, a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based zero-waste lifestyle shop, raised $4.5 million in seed funding. Primary Venture Partners led the round, and was joined by investors including TQ Ventures, Day One Ventures, Ryan Engel of Peloton, Brooke Wall of The Wall Group and Neil Parikh.

- Modulz, a Dublin-based startup that helps teams code without writing code, raised $4.2 million seed funding. Investors include LocalGlobe, Ryan Hoover, Weekend Fund’s Vedika Jain and Frontline Ventures.

- Lifted, a London-based home care provider startup, raised 1.5 million pounds ($1.6 million) in seed funding. The investors were not named.

- Kyoku, a Los Angeles-based personalized, plant-based active nutrition brand, raised $1.2 million in funding. Science Inc. led the round, and was joined by investors including Mark Stevens and a founding partner at Sequoia Capital.

PRIVATE EQUITY DEALS

- Rubicon Technology Partners agreed to make a majority investment in Cin7, a New Zealand-based provider of cloud-based inventory management software and point-of-sale solutions. Financial terms weren't disclosed. 

- EnCap Investments and Yorktown Partners invested in Broad Reach Power, a Houston, Texas-based utility-scale storage independent power producer. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

- Apex Service Partners made an investment in Southern Air Heating & Cooling, a Shreveport, La.-based residential HVAC services company. Financial terms weren't disclosed. 

IPOs

- Ecmoho, a Shanghai-based operator of an online retail platform for wellness products in China, filed for an $150 million IPO. It posted revenue of $199 million and income of $6.2 million in 2018. It plans to list on the Nasdaq under the symbol “MOHO.” Read more.

EXITS

- Logitech will acquire Streamlabs, a San Francisco-based streaming software. Financial terms weren't disclosed. Streamlabs had raised approximately $16 million in funding from investors including Sequoia and e-ventures.