Welcome to the year of the giant tech IPO. A cavalcade of so-called unicorns, privately held companies valued at $1 billion or more, is galloping toward supersize initial public offerings. Uber alone raised $8.1 billion in its May debut. The 10-year-old company is so big that it would have ranked No. 280 on this year’s Fortune 500, based on revenue, if it had released its financials earlier.
Ride-hailing app Lyft and online bulletin board Pinterest are just some of the other boldface names that have also held huge stock offerings. Meanwhile, workplace-messaging service Slack filed for a direct listing, bypassing the cumbersome underwriting process but also forgoing any immediate proceeds.
In all, six U.S.-based, venture-capital-backed tech companies had made a 2019 debut by Fortune’s press time, reaping $13 billion. Investors gave some, like Uber, a cool reception out of the gate. In terms of absolute numbers, it’s a relatively slow year for tech IPOs. What makes this year so remarkable, though, is the money that individual companies are raising. On average, they’ve collected $2.2 billion each through their IPOs, more than in any of the prior seven years.
In fact, Kathleen Smith, cofounder of IPO-tracker Renaissance Capital, expects a record-setting 2019. U.S.-listed IPOs across all industries, not just tech, may raise more than $100 billion this year, eclipsing the $97 billion collected in 2000 during the dotcom bubble.
Like then, there’s a red flag to consider when it comes to the current crop of tech companies going public: They’re hemorrhaging cash. Combined, they lost $5 billion in the two years leading up to their IPOs. And that’s not even including office landlord WeWork, delivery service Postmates, and home hotelier Airbnb, which are also eyeing the public market.
We’re only at the half-year mark, after all. More unicorns are on the way.
A version of this article appears in the June 2019 issue of Fortune with the headline “Tech’s Unicorns Feast at the IPO Trough.”
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