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Who goes public when? Tech companies maneuver to stand out in the horde

SFGate Monday, 15 April 2019 ()
When Jennifer Tejada, CEO of San Francisco’s PagerDuty, decided to take the software company public, she wanted to avoid this week. The stock market closes on Good Friday, and many people are on spring break. She had also feared being drowned out by a horde of other tech initial public offerings.

“I remember saying, ‘I hope we don’t get run over by the ‘unicorn’ stampede,’” she said, using the term for private companies valued at more than $1 billion.

Pinterest, a San Francisco digital pin board company that is also going public, wanted to beat Friday’s holiday, according to a person familiar with the situation. It wound up scheduling its IPO for Thursday — the same day that Zoom, a San Jose video conferencing company, will list its shares.

And Lyft and Uber, the ride-hailing companies, decided to leave breathing room between their IPO filings so as not to run into each other, said two people familiar with the deliberations, who were not authorized to speak publicly. When Lyft filed first, Uber gave itself a 30-day cushion before revealing its own prospectus last week.

The maneuvering is the result of what promises to be a blockbuster year for tech public offerings. With a glut of prominent startups coming to market all at once, the companies, their bankers and the stock exchanges face a conundrum: Who goes when?

IPOs are generally a crowning moment that validate years of work. So companies approach the day as something more than a financial transaction — it is also a coming-out party, a branding event and a celebration. And it is a time when the companies do not want to share the spotlight.

“Most of these companies have been private for 10-plus years, and it’s a huge moment,” said Nelson Griggs, president of the Nasdaq Stock Exchange, who...
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