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One dirty IPO secret is that even the coolest may only make a handful of people rich – and it may not be ordinary people, employees, or even most of the investors who get a windfall.
DoorDash and Airbnb are expected to sell their shares to the public for the first time, and at higher share prices than expected a few weeks ago.
Buying stocks in relatively young and unproven companies – which usually describes tech companies selling their stocks to the public for the first time – is often a coin toss bet.
Even the professional investors who buy stocks of hot companies before going public don’t always get rich unless they toss their money around early in the life of a company and are lucky. Companies like Uber, Lyft, Snapchat, and Slack, which you’ve probably heard of, were multiple IPO investments at best.
Check out Airbnb. Among those investors who had a special chance to buy Airbnb stock about four years ago, every $ 10,000 they bought is worth about $ 11,500 when Airbnb starts selling its shares for $ 60 every Selling dollars to the public. Kind!
But if about four years ago your cousin had invested $ 10,000 in a simple fund that mirrored the ups and downs of the S&P 500 stock index, he would now have $ 15,600. More beautiful.
The pandemic hurt Uber and Lyft’s businesses, but their stocks were losers before. Uber’s share price has rebounded and is up 30 percent since the spring. Still, anyone who bought Uber stock when it went public in 2019 – and even the professional investors who bought their stocks in the previous four years – would have made a lot more money buying an index fund. Uber employees who were hired and partially paid in stocks prior to going public would also have been better paid in an index fund.
People who bought Snapchat stock as part of its 2017 IPO had to wait more than three years in order not to lose money. Slack recently agreed to sell itself at a price that doesn’t represent a significant gain on the price of its first stock sale to the public last year. Again, your cousin would have done better.
These are examples picked from cherries. There are companies that have had their share prices soaring since going public and making people rich: Zoom Video is a great example of technology. And the folks who have already bet on the DoorDash restaurant delivery app will make a coin when the company goes public this week.
That is the point. It is difficult to predict which young companies will win, and the definition of victory is often in the eye of the beholder.
Airbnb will be a confetti-and-champagne moment for the well-known start-up investment firm Sequoia, which relies on the company early on. And things are certainly going better than expected when the trips froze earlier this year. While Airbnb isn’t a killer stock this week, it could be in a year or 20. Investors could get in if they hold the stock and it goes up. (Or they could be even bigger losers if they hold the stock and it goes down.) Nobody can predict the outcome for sure.
Take this lesson to heart as you see people yelling Robinhood about its splendor on a hot IPO. Cool companies don’t always make good investments. And when they do, it’s not necessarily good for everyone.
(A version of this newsletter was published in the New York Times Live Business Briefing.)
Not really. What if almost everyone hates your business?
I’ve written here before about the poor economics of delivery services like DoorDash and Uber Eats for restaurants, delivery couriers, and the businesses themselves that are prone to losing money.
Many people love the convenience of having a buffet of dining options at the touch of a button – (for one price). But I want to ask again, if one group of people love your business but many others hate it, will it survive?
This is a renewed question based on recent news reports – from the Bay Area public radio station KQED and the nonprofit news organization The City in New York – that some couriers who deliver meals for app companies are working together to have more influence on theirs Forming wage and working conditions or alternatives that make them less dependent on the whims of the company.
My colleague Brian X. Chen and others have also written about the emerging industry of mostly small grocery ordering apps that promise to be friendlier to restaurants by typically charging them lower commissions than Uber Eats and its colleagues or give them more autonomy when orders come in.
The problems with services like DoorDash and Uber Eats are of course not just unique to app companies that deliver groceries. In most industries, corporate workers and business partners tend to push for better terms, and this is especially true for companies like grocery delivery apps that connect buyers and sellers. In addition to guests, delivery services have been a lifeline for some restaurants and couriers, especially since the pandemic has closed or restricted many indoor restaurants.
But I keep thinking about how many unhappy attendees there seem to be in the grocery delivery app system. Perhaps the pain is growing for this type of app, which is still relatively new, and perhaps this more reflects the difficult economic circumstances facing small businesses and low-paid workers.
Either way, all of the calamity is something that food delivery apps cannot ignore or wish away from.
Before we go …
Getting people to use a coronavirus exposure app is a challenge: But the apps that let people know about their contacts who test positive for the virus can work, wrote my colleague Jennifer Valentino-DeVries, if people trust them and are encouraged to use them. A test at the University of Arizona found that the tool sent alerts for up to 12 percent of the transmissions that researchers said helped control the outbreak on campus.
The New Zealand mosque shooter was radicalized on YouTube: According to my colleague Charlotte Graham-McLay, according to an investigation by my New Zealand government into the mass murder in Christchurch in 2019, the shooter was more radicalized on YouTube than in the darker corners of the internet. Times technology columnist Kevin Roose also has a Twitter thread about the missed opportunities to take the dangers of YouTube seriously.
Everything bad about the internet in one article: My colleague Jack Nicas recorded the 21-year-old Trump supporter, who impersonated the president’s family members and political figures on Twitter for almost a year before the president and the company took notice. This runaway calamity helped the impersonator attract online followers, spread conspiracy theories, and raise money from fake fundraisers.
This TikTok video is one for nerds: one of the famous instrumental songs from “Star Wars” that is played beautifully on the harp.
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