In a year when the Dow Jones Industrial Average has risen almost 20%, shattering one record after another, some newly public companies have been left in the cold.
Uber (UBER), Lyft (LYFT) and Slack (WORK) all struggled due to questions about when (or if?) they will turn a profit. Beyond Meat (BYND) and Peloton (PTON) have endured some growing pains, too. WeWork blew up before even making it to Wall Street…
Will the Class of 2020 fare any better? The market is clearly looking to Airbnb, which is likely to be the most prominent unicorn to go public next year.
“Airbnb wil be next year’s Uber. The attention, hopes and dreams will all be put on them,” said James Gellert, chairman and CEO of RapidRatings, a research firm that analyzes the financial health of companies. But Gellert thinks Airbnb should fare better than Uber because it has stronger fundamentals and less competition.
Investors are also betting that food delivery service Postmates, trading app Robinhood and mattress seller Casper could make waves if they debut on Wall Street.
“2020 could be a good year for the IPO market. There is a tremendous pipeline. IPOs are not broken but the bar has changed. Before there was no bar,” said Santosh Rao, head of research at Manhattan Venture Partners, in an interview with CNN Business.
“Investors are now more demanding and want sustainable business models,” he added.
Rao is bullish on the prospects for Airbnb and Postmates if they go public next year. He’s also keeping a close eye on Postmates rival DoorDash, payments company Stripe, Big Data giant Palantir and Chinese ridesharing firm Didi.
But how these companies do will depend a lot on whether they give investors more of a say in how they are run.
Strong corporate governance is key
The WeWork debacle may have been the final nail in the coffin for start-ups that let their founders and CEOs set the agenda. For that reason, Gellert said, corporate governance will be an even more important issue than profitability in 2020.
“Tech companies have pushed the edges of the envelope with dual class stock listings and CEO/founder control,” Gellert said in an interview with CNN Business. “If you buy a share of a public company, you should have a vote and know what’s going on. So many tech IPOs flaunt the concept of transparency and shun investors’ rights. The market has gotten pretty sick of that.”
Lonne Jaffe, managing director of Insight Partners, a venture capital firm that backed Twitter () and Shopify ( ), agrees with that view.
“There is definitely an increased focus on governance and integrity. It’s front and center for all senior management teams at late stage companies,” Jaffe said, adding that…
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