After years of only sporadic tech IPOs, the spigot has opened. 2019 will likely be a banner year for multibillion dollar companies hitting public markets.
Tech companies have stayed private longer than they have in the past, and they’re worth more than ever. As of mid June, the US has 177 active tech unicorns — the term for startups valued at more than a billion dollars — according to financial data software company PitchBook. A decade ago, there were only nine. Additionally, tech companies like Uber, WeWork, and Airbnb have become household names — meaning people outside the tech community are more likely to invest in them, and by extension have more to lose if these unproven companies fail.
Failure is a distinct possibility. Some 84 percent of US tech companies that went public last year did so without turning a profit. The last time unprofitable tech companies went public at this rate was in 2000, the year the dot-com bubble burst. In 2019, these companies are riding high on venture capital money and investors’ hunger for growth above all else.
Even more concerning, these companies are going public at a time when economists are predicting a new recession may hit within the next couple of years. An economic slump isn’t good for anyone, especially newly public companies like Uber and Lyft with lots of debt. This new crop of IPOs in 2019 will be canaries in the coal mine for the economic prospects of other technology companies, as well as the economy at large — which is increasingly dominated by tech.
To help keep an eye on things, we’ve built an IPO tracker that will update stock prices every few minutes. So far, we’re tracking Lyft, Zoom, Pinterest, Uber, Fiverr, and Slack, which are listed in order of IPO date. In the coming year or so, we can also expect WeWork and Airbnb — maybe even Peloton — to go public. This tool is meant to give you a quick visual perspective on how these tech companies are performing in the stock market compared to their debut prices (what the companies first traded at on the public market).