Intelligize Report: Unicorn IPOs Offer Rainbow of Storylines

Last year at this time, Intelligize published its first-ever report on unicorn IPOs. Now we’re releasing our second edition, and like the sequel to a hit movie, this one features bigger names, more funding, and better special effects. Okay, there are no special effects—the report, Analysis of 2019 Unicorn IPOs (download here), is just a simple .pdf. But this much is true: the 2019 class of unicorn IPOs included plenty of household names (Uber and Peloton, to name two), and raised money in quantities that unicorns never have before. Their combined offering size of $18.9 billion represented a more than three-fold increase from 2018.

Beyond the big names and numbers, the data tells a more nuanced story about unicorn IPOs in 2019. For nearly every big trend that emerged, in fact, there seemed to be a counterpoint of sorts.

Trend: Unicorn IPOs set a record pace in the first half of 2019. Ten unicorns went public in Q2 alone, with a combined offering size of $12.5 billion, nearly double the $5.8 billion for all of 2018.

Counter: Then they slowed significantly. After the implosion of WeWork’s IPO and following disappointing post-IPO performances by several high-profile unicorns, the pace of unicorn IPOs slowed dramatically.

Trend: Unicorns continued rushing their IPOs to market. As they did last year, unicorns moved quickly to begin trading. They even sped up a little, averaging 113 days from draft registration statement to IPO.

Counter: Beyond Meat’s patience paid off. The alternative meat company took more than 200 days from DRS to IPO. Armed with better financials, it executed the “best-performing public offering by a major U.S. company in nearly two decades.”

Trend: Average offering fees dropped sharply in 2019. Another side effect of IPOs by Uber and Lyft was a drop in underwriting, legal and audit fees, as professionals competed for their business.

Counter: Direct listing didn’t save Slack money. Although direct listings can result in smaller underwriting fees, the “other advisers’ fees” for Slack’s massive direct listing tracked underwriter’s fees paid by unicorns that pursued conventional IPOs.

These storylines (and their counterpoints) all pertain to the topic of offering trends, one of three different subjects covered in detail in the report. Our Analysis of 2019 Unicorn IPOs also contains data and analysis on ESG factors and accounting issues that drove the last year in unicorn IPOs.

We even break down how the biggest and most entertaining unicorn IPO that never happened—WeWork’s — carried significant lessons for other unicorns. Download the report here to find out what they are.

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