Slack Technologies Inc., a provider of cloud-based tools and services that facilitate workplace collaboration, will go public this week. The company filed for an initial public offering (IPO) with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) on April 26, 2019. Several highly-touted IPOs already have hit the market, as tech-oriented private companies seek to go public while the major U.S. stock market indexes are at or near all-time highs. Key facts related to the Slack IPO are summarized in the tables below.
Slack Technologies IPO: Key Facts
- To be structured as a direct public offering (DPO)
- Existing privately-held shares will be sold to the public
- The market, not investment bankers, will determine the offering price
- Will start trading on June 20 on the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) under symbol "WORK"
- The company has received a reference price of $26 for each share, which would give the company a $15.7 billion valuation
- Revenue of $400.6 million in fiscal year ending Jan. 31, 2019
- Revenue up by 82% from prior fiscal year
- Lost $140.7 million in its latest fiscal year, versus $140.1 million in prior year
- Cash burn rate in the latest fiscal year was $97 million
- Net losses exceed cash burn rate because customers pay up front
- Cash, cash equivalents, and marketable securities: $841.1 million
- Daily active users exceed 10 million
- Collective weekly usage exceeds 1 billion messages and 50 million hours
- Typical paid user connected for 9 hours on at least one device per work day
- Typical paid user has over 90 minutes of active usage per work day
- Used by over 600,000 organizations with three or more employees
- More than 500,000 organizations are currently on a free subscription plan
- More than 95,000 organizations are Paid customers as of April 30, 2019.
- Paid customers increased by 49% in the latest fiscal year from prior year
- Payment plans are monthly or annual, based on number of users
- Paid customers include more than 65 companies in the Fortune 100
- Has 575 large customers that pay $100,000 or more annually, up by 93%
- The 575 big customers contributed 40% of total revenue in last fiscal year
Sources: Form S-1 filing with the SEC, The Wall Street Journal
Change of Strategic Direction
Slack is an example of a company that changed strategic direction as it grew. Starting out as a gaming firm called Tiny Speck in 2009, Slack eventually saw greater opportunity in commercializing the messaging software that it originally had developed strictly for internal use, as an alternative to traditional e-mail, the Journal notes.
DPO vs. IPO
By choosing a direct public offering (DPO), Slack should save tens of millions of dollars in fees that otherwise would be paid to investment bankers, underwriters, and members of the selling syndicate in a typical IPO as described below, the Journal notes. Slack has engaged Morgan Stanley to advise market maker Citadel Securities LLC on setting an opening price for its shares, which will depend on buy and sell orders.
Morgan Stanley played a similar role for music streaming service Spotify SA (SPOT), when that company went the DPO route in 2018, the Journal adds. As of the close on June 18, 2019, Spotify's shares were 9.8% below their opening price on their first day of trading, April 3, 2018, and 24.8% below their all-time high, which was reached in intraday trading on July 26, 2018.
How Traditional IPOs Differ
In the vast majority of IPOs, a company that is going public engages an investment banking firm to manage the offering, estimating demand and setting the number of shares to be offered and the offering price accordingly. In any IPO of significant size, the lead investment banking firm will assemble a syndicate that includes other investment banking and broker-dealer firms that will line up buyers, among both retail and institutional investors.
The two main categories of IPOs are best efforts and firm commitment deals. In a firm commitment deal, the investment bankers who underwrite it promise to raise a specific minimum amount for the issuer. By contrast, no such guarantee is made with respect to a best efforts deal. As a result, the fees paid by the issuing company to its underwriters on firm commitment deals are higher, to compensate for the added risk. By choosing a DPO, Slack essentially has opted for a low-cost version of a best efforts offering.