Categories
bill.com crowdstrike direct listing Enterprise Fundings & Exits IPO TC

CrowdStrike’s CEO on how to IPO, direct listings and what’s ahead for SaaS startups

A few days before Christmas, TechCrunch caught up with CrowdStrike CEO George Kurtz to chat about his company’s public offering, direct listings and his expectations for the 2020 IPO market. We also spoke about CrowdStrike’s product niche — endpoint security — and a bit more on why he views his company as the Salesforce of security.

The conversation is timely. Of the 2019 IPO cohort, CrowdStrike’s IPO stands out as one of the year’s most successful debuts. As 2020’s IPO cycle is expected to be both busy and inclusive of some of the private market’s biggest names, Kurtz’s views are useful to understand. After all, his SaaS security company enjoyed a strong pricing cycle, a better-than-expected IPO fundraising haul and strong value appreciation after its debut.

Notably, CrowdStrike didn’t opt to pursue a direct listing; after chatting with the CEO of recent IPO Bill.com concerning why his SaaS company also decided on a traditional flotation, we wanted to hear from Kurtz as well. The security CEO called the current conversation around direct listings a “great debate,” before explaining his perspective.

Pulling from a longer conversation, what follows are Kurtz’s four tips for companies gearing up for a public offering, why his company elected chose a traditional public offering over a more exotic method, comments on endpoint security and where CrowdStrike fits inside its market, and, finally, quick notes on upcoming debuts.

The following interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.

How to go public successfully

Share often

What’s most important is the fact that when we IPO’d in June of 2019, we started the process three years earlier. And that is the number one thing that I can point to. When [CrowdStrike CFO Burt Podbere] and I went on the road show everybody knew us, all the buy side investors we had met with for three years, the sell side analysts knew us. The biggest thing that I would say is you can’t go on a road show and have someone not know your company, or not know you, or your CFO.

And we would share — as a private company, you share less — but we would share tidbits of information. And we built a level of consistency over time, where we would share something, and then they would see it come true. And we would share something else, and they would see it come true. And we did that over three years. So we built, I believe, trust with the street, in anticipation of, at some point in the future, an IPO.

Practice early

We spent a lot of time running the company as if it was public, even when we were private. We had our own earnings call as a private company. We would write it up and we would script it.

You’ve seen other companies out there, if they don’t get their house in order it’s very hard to go [public]. And we believe we had our house in order. We ran it that way [which] allowed us to think and operate like a public company, which you want to get out of the way before you come become public. If there’s a takeaway here for folks that are thinking about [going public], run it and act like a public company before you’re public, including simulated earnings calls. And once you become public, you already have that muscle memory.

Raw numbers matter

The third piece is [that] you [have to] look at the numbers. We are in rarified air. At the time of IPO we were the fastest growing SaaS company to IPO ever at scale. So we had the numbers, we had the growth rate, but it really was a combination of preparation beforehand, operating like a public company, […] and then we had the numbers to back it up.

TAM is key, even at scale

One last point, we had the [total addressable market, or TAM] as well. We have the TAM as part of our story; security and where we play is a massive opportunity. So we had that market opportunity as well.


On this topic, Kurtz told TechCrunch two interesting things earlier in the conversation. First that what many people consider as “endpoint security” is too constrained, that the category includes “traditional endpoints plus things like mobile, plus things like containers, IoT devices, serverless, ephemeral cloud instances, [and] on and on.” The more things that fit under the umbrella of endpoint security, CrowdStrike’s focus, the bigger its market is.

Kurtz also discussed how the cloud migration — something that builds TAM for his company’s business — is still in “the early innings,” going on to say that in time “you’re going to start to see more critical workloads migrate to the cloud.” That should generate even more TAM for CrowdStrike and its competitors, like Carbon Black and Tanium.


Why CrowdStrike opted for a traditional IPO instead of a direct listing

Categories
Enterprise Fundings & Exits IPO oneConnect Ping-an Softbank TC Vision Fund

OneConnect’s drastic IPO value cut underscores the risk of high-growth, high-burn companies

OneConnect’s U.S.-listed IPO flew under our radar last week, which won’t do. The company’s public offering is both interesting and important, so let’s take a few minutes this morning to understand what we missed and why we care.

The now-public company sells financial technology that banks in China and select foreign countries can use to bring their services into the modern era. OneConnect charges mostly for usage of its products, driving over three-quarters of its revenue from transactions, including API calls.

After pricing its shares at $10 apiece, the SoftBank Vision Fund-backed company wrapped last week worth the same: $10 per share.

One one hand, OneConnect is merely another China-based IPO listing domestically here in the United States, making it merely one member of a crowd. So, why do we care about its listing?

A few reasons. We care because the listing is another liquidity event for SoftBank and its Vision Fund. As the Japanese conglomerate revs up its second Vision Fund cycle (Vision Fund 2, more here), returns and proof of its ability to pick winners and fuel them with capital are key. OneConnect’s success as a public company, therefore, matters.

And for us market observers, the debut is doubly exciting from a financial perspective. No, OneConnect doesn’t make money (very much the opposite). What’s curious about the company is that it brought huge losses to sale when it was pitching its equity. Which, in a post-WeWork world, are supposed to be out of style. Let’s see how well it priced.

What’s it worth?

OneConnect targeted a $9 to $10 per-share IPO price. That makes its final, $10 per-share pricing the top of its range. That said, given how narrow its range was, the result doesn’t look like much of a coup for the company. That’s doubly true when we recall that OneConnect lowered its IPO price range from $12 to $14 per share (a more standard price band) to the lower figures. So, the company managed to price at the top of its expectations, but only after those were cut to size.

When it all wrapped, OneConnect was worth about $3.7 billion at its IPO price, according to math from The New York Times. TechCrunch’s own calculations value the firm at a slightly richer $3.8 billion. Regardless, the figure was a disappointment.

When OneConnect raised from SoftBank’s Vision Fund in early 2018, $650 million was invested at a $6.8 billion pre-money valuation, according to Crunchbase data. That put a $7.45 billion post-money price tag on the Ping An-sourced business. To see the company forced to cut its IPO valuation so far is difficult for OneConnect itself, its parent Ping An and its backer SoftBank.

Why so little?

I promised to be brief when we started, so let’s stay curt: OneConnect’s business was worth far less than expected because while it posted impressive revenue gains, the company’s deep unprofitability made it less palatable than expected to public investors.

OneConnect managed to post revenue growth of more than 70% in the first three quarters of 2019, expanding top line to $217.5 million in the period. However, during that time it generated just $70.9 million in gross profit, the sum it could use to cover its operating costs. The company’s cost structure, however, was far larger than its gross profit.

Over the same nine-month period, OneConnect’s sales and marketing costs alone outstripped its total gross profit. All told, OneConnect posted operating costs of $227.6 million in the first three quarters of 2019, leading to an operating loss of $156.6 million in the period.

The company will, therefore, burn lots of cash as it grows; OneConnect is still deep in its investment motion, and far from the sort of near-profitability that we hear is in vogue. In a sense, OneConnect bears the narrative out. It had to endure a sharp valuation reduction to get out. You can see the market’s changed mood in that fact alone.

Photo by Roberto Júnior on Unsplash

Categories
bill.com EHang Enterprise Fundings & Exits IPO sprout social TC unicorn

Grading the final tech IPOs of 2019

As the holiday slowdown looms, the final U.S.-listed technology IPOs have come in and begun to trade.

Three tech, tech-ish or venture-backed companies went public this week: Bill.com, Sprout Social and EHang. Let’s quickly review how each has performed thus far. These are, bear in mind, the last IPOs of the year that we care about, pending something incredible happening. 2020 will bring all sorts of fun, but, for this time ’round the sun, we’re done.

Pricing

Our three companies managed to each price differently. So, we have some variety to discuss. Here’s how each managed during their IPO run:

How do those results stack up against their final private valuations? Doing the best we can, here’s how they compare:

So EHang priced low and its IPO is hard to vet, as we’re guessing at its final private worth. We’ll give it a passing grade. Sprout Social priced mid-range, and managed a slight valuation bump. We can give that a B, or B+. Bill.com managed to price above its raised range, boosting its valuation sharply in the process. That’s worth an A.

Performance

Trading just wrapped, so how have our companies performed thus far in their nascent lives as public companies? Here’s the scorecard:

  • EHang’s Friday closing price: $12.90 (+3.2%)
  • Sprout Social’s Friday closing price: $16.60 (-2.35%)
  • Bill.com’s Friday closing price: $38.83 (+76.5%)

You can gist out the grades somewhat easily here, with one caveat. The Bill.com IPO’s massive early success has caused the usual complaints that the firm was underpriced by its bankers, and was thus robbed to some degree. This argument makes the assumption that the public market’s initial pricing of the company once it began trading is reasonable (maybe!) and that the company in question could have captured most or all of that value (maybe!).

Bill.com’s CEO’s reaction to the matter puts a new spin on it, but you should at least know that the week’s most successful IPO has attracted criticism for being too successful. So forget any chance of an A+.

Image via Getty Images / Somyot Techapuwapat / EyeEm

Categories
bill.com Enterprise Exit Fundings & Exits IPO lightbank nea sprout social Startups TC

Chicago’s Sprout Social prices IPO mid-range at $17 per share, raising $150M

On the heels of Bill.com’s debut, Chicago-based social media software company Sprout Social priced its IPO last night at $17 per share, in the middle of its proposed $16 to $18 per-share range. Selling 8.8 million shares, Sprout raised just under $150 million in its debut.

Underwriters have the option to purchase an additional 1.3 million shares if they so choose.

The IPO is a good result for the company’s investors (Lightbank, New Enterprise Associates, Goldman Sachs and Future Fund), but also for Chicago, a growing startup scene that doesn’t often get its due in the public mind.

At $17 per share, not including the possible underwriter option, Sprout Social is worth about $814 million. That’s just a hair over its final private valuation set during its $40.5 million Series D in December of 2018. That particular investment valued Sprout at $800.5 million, according to Crunchbase data.

So what?

Sprout’s debut is interesting for a few reasons. First, the company raised just a little over $110 million while private, and will generate over $100 million in trailing GAAP revenue this year. In effect, Sprout Social used less than $110 million to build up over $100 million in annual recurring revenue (ARR) — the firm reached the $100 million ARR mark between Q2 and Q3 of 2019. That’s a remarkably efficient result for the unicorn era.

And the company is interesting, as it gives us a look at how investors value slower-growth SaaS companies. As we’ve written, Sprout Social grew by a little over 30% in the first three quarters of 2019. That’s a healthy rate, but not as fast as, say, Bill.com . (Bill.com’s strong market response puts its own growth rate in context.)

Thinking very loosely, Sprout Social closed Q3 2019 with ARR of about $105 million. Worth $814 million now, we can surmise that Sprout priced at an ARR multiple of about 7.75x. That’s a useful benchmark for private companies that sell software: If you want a higher multiple when you go public, you’ll have to grow a little faster.

All the same, the IPO is a win for Chicago, and a win for the company’s investors. We’ll update this piece later with how the stock performs, once it begins to trade.

Categories
bill.com Emergence Capital Enterprise Exit IPO Payments SaaS Startups TC

Why Bill.com didn’t pursue a direct listing

Bill.com went public today after pricing its shares higher than it initially expected. The B2B payments company sold nearly 10 million shares at $22 apiece, raising around $216 million in its IPO. Public investors felt that the company’s price was a deal, sending the value of its equity to $35.51 per share as of the time of writing.

That’s a gain of over 61%.

On the heels of its successful pricing run and raucous first day’s trading, TechCrunch caught up with Bill.com CEO René Lacerte to dig into his company’s debut. We wanted to know how pricing went, and whether the company (which possibly could have valued itself more richly during its IPO pricing, given its first-day pop) had considered a direct listing.

Lacerte detailed what resonated with investors while pricing Bill.com’s shares, and also did a good job outlining his perspective on what matters for companies that are going public. As a spoiler, he wasn’t super focused on the company’s first-day return.

For more on the Bill.com IPO’s nuts and bolts, head here. Let’s get into the interview.

René Lacerte

The following interview has been edited for length and clarity. Questions have been condensed.

TechCrunch: How did your IPO pricing feel, and what did you learn from the process?

Lacerte: I think the whole experience has been an incredible learning experience from a capitalism perspective; that’s probably a broader conversation. But you know, it really came down to how our story resonated with investors, and so there’s three components that we kind of really talked to folks about.