Affirm, Airbnb, C3.ai, Roblox, Wish file for tech IPO finale of 2020

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The wait was long but this week the time was right: Airbnb finally filed its S-1 and so did Affirm, C3.ai, Roblox, and Wish. We are likely to see these five price on public markets before the end of an already superlative year for tech IPOs. The ongoing pandemic and political turmoil were not scary enough, apparently.

This coming decade, you have to think that we’ll see a more even spread of tech companies going public. Many of the companies above have been bottled up for years behind privately funded growth strategies. Today, however, the industry has a better grasp of SPACs and direct listings, and various funding routes. Companies have more options from their founding for how they might grow and exit one day. Public investors in 2020 also seem to have a deeper appreciation for the current revenue numbers and future growth opportunities for tech companies. Why, I can still remember all the geniuses who bragged about shorting the Facebook IPO not so long ago.

Will we see a more even spread of where IPOs come from? While all of this week’s filers are headquartered in San Francisco or environs, that now feels almost like a coincidental reference to the years when these companies were founded. More states have been minting their own unicorns, with Ohio-based Root Insurance recently going public and Utah-based Qualtrics heading (back) that way. Tech startups are now global, meanwhile, and plenty of countries are working to keep their unicorns closer to home than New York.

On to the headlines from TechCrunch and Extra Crunch:

If you didn’t make $ 1B this week, you are not doing VC right (EC)

Affirm files to go public

Inside Affirm’s IPO filing: A look at its economics, profits and revenue concentration (EC)

Airbnb files to go public

5 questions from Airbnb’s IPO filing (EC)

The VC and founder winners in Airbnb’s IPO (EC)

Roblox files to go public

What is Roblox worth? (EC)

Wish files to go public with 100M monthly actives, $ 1.75B in 2020 revenue thus far

Unpacking the C3.ai IPO filing (EC)

With a 2021 IPO in the cards, what do we know about Robinhood’s Q3 performance? (EC)

(Photo by Win McNamee/Getty Images)

What does a Biden administration mean for tech?

What does Joe Biden intend as president around technology policy? On the one hand, tech companies might not be returning to the White House too fast. “All told, we’re seeing some familiar names in the mix, but 2020 isn’t 2008,” Taylor Hatmaker explains about potential presidential appointments from the industry. “Tech companies that emerged as golden children over the last 10 years are radioactive now. Regulation looms on the horizon in every direction. Whatever policy priorities emerge out of the Biden administration, Obama’s technocratic gilded age is over and we’re in for something new.”

However, tech industries and companies focused on shared goals might find support. In a review of Biden’s climate-change policies, Jon Shieber looks at major green infrastructure plans that could be on the way.

Any policies that a Biden administration enacts would have to focus on economic opportunity broadly, and much of the proposed plan from the campaign fulfills that need. One of its key propositions was that it would be “creating good, union, middle-class jobs in communities left behind, righting wrongs in communities that bear the brunt of pollution, and lifting up the best ideas from across our great nation — rural, urban and tribal,” according to the transition website. An early emphasis on grid and utility infrastructure could create significant opportunities for job creation across America — and be a boost for technology companies. “Our electric power infrastructure is old, aging and not secure,” said Abe Yokell, co-founder of the energy and climate-focused venture capital firm Congruent Ventures. “From an infrastructure standpoint, transmission distribution really should be upgraded and has been underinvested over the years. And it is in direct alignment with providing renewable energy deployment across the U.S. and the electrification of everything.”

Rebar is laid before poring a cement slab for an apartment in San Francisco CA.

Image Credits: Steve Proehl (opens in a new window) / Getty Images

The future of construction tech

A skilled labor shortage is piling on top of the construction industry’s traditional challenges this year. The result is that tech adoption is getting a big push into the real world, Allison Xu of Bain Capital Ventures writes in a guest column for Extra Crunch this week. She maps out six main construction categories where tech startups are emerging, including project conception, design and engineering, pre-construction, construction execution, post construction and construction management. Here’s an excerpt from the article about that last item:

  • How it works today: Construction management and operations teams manage the end-to-end project, with functions such as document management, data and insights, accounting, financing, HR/payroll, etc.
  • Key challenges: The complexity of the job site translates to highly complex and burdensome paperwork associated with each project. Managing the process requires communication and alignment across many stakeholders.
  • How technology can address challenges: The nuances of the multistakeholder construction process merit value in a verticalized approach to managing the project. Construction management tools like ProcoreHyphen Solutions and IngeniousIO have created ways for contractors to coordinate and track the end-to-end process more seamlessly. Other players like Levelset have taken a construction-specific approach to functions like invoice management and payments.

Virtual HQs after the pandemic?

Pandemic-era work solutions like online team meeting spaces are heading towards a less certain, vaccine-based reality. Have we all gone remote-first enough that they will have a real market, still? Natasha Mascarenhas checks in with some of the top companies to see how it’s looking, here’s more:

With the goal of making remote work more spontaneous, there are dozens of new startups working to create virtual HQs for distributed teams. The three that have risen to the top include Branch, built by Gen Z gamers; Gather, created by engineers building a gamified Zoom; and Huddle, which is still in stealth.

The platforms are all racing to prove that the world is ready to be a part of virtual workspaces. By drawing on multiplayer gaming culture, the startups are using spatial technology, animations and productivity tools to create a metaverse dedicated to work.

The biggest challenge ahead? The startups need to convince venture capitalists and users alike that they’re more than Sims for Enterprise or an always-on Zoom call. The potential success could signal how the future of work will blend gaming and socialization for distributed teams.

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Extra Crunch

Will Zoom Apps be the next hot startup platform?

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A report card for the SEC’s new equity crowdfunding rules

#EquityPod

From Alex Wilhelm:

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast (now on Twitter!), where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week wound up being incredibly busy. What else, with a week that included both the Airbnb and Affirm IPO filings, a host of mega-rounds for new unicorns, some fascinating smaller funding events and some new funds?

So we had a lot to get through, but with Chris and Danny and Natasha and your humble servant, we dove in headfirst:

What a week! Three episodes, some new records, and a very tired us after all the action. More on Monday!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT and Thursday afternoon as fast as we can get it out, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Startups – TechCrunch

Fintech unicorn Affirm has a lot of eggs in one basket

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast (now on Twitter!), where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week wound being incredibly busy. What else would a week that included both the Airbnb and Affirm IPO filings, a host of mega-rounds for new unicorns, some fascinating smaller funding events, and some new funds?

So we had a lot to get through, but with Chris and Danny and Natasha and your humble servant, we dove in headfirst:

What a week! Three episodes, some new records, and a very tired us after all the action. More on Monday!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PDT and Thursday afternoon as fast as we can get it out, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Startups – TechCrunch

Affirm files to go public

Affirm, a consumer finance business founded by PayPal mafia member Max Levchin, filed to go public this afternoon.

The company’s financial results show that Affirm, which doles out personalized loans on an installment basis to consumers at the point of sale, has an enticing combination of rapidly expanding revenues and slimming losses.

Growth and a path to profitability has been a winning duo in 2020 as a number of unicorns with similar metrics have seen strong pricing in their debuts, and winsome early trading. Affirm joins DoorDash and Airbnb in pursuing an exit before 2020 comes to a close.

Let’s get a scratch at its financial results, and what made those numbers possible.

Affirm’s financials

Affirm recorded impressive historical revenue growth. In its 2019 fiscal year, Affirm booked revenues of $ 264.4 million. Fast forward one year and Affirm managed top line of $ 509.5 million in fiscal 2020, up 93% from the year-ago period. Affirm’s fiscal year starts on July 1, a pattern that allows the consumer finance company to fully capture the U.S. end-of-year holiday season in its figures.

The San Francisco-based company’s losses have also narrowed over time. In its 2019 fiscal year, Affirm lost $ 120.5 million on a fully-loaded basis (GAAP). That loss slightly fell to $ 112.6 million in fiscal 2020.

More recently, in its first quarter ending September 30, 2020, Affirm kept up its pattern of rising revenues and falling losses. In that three-month period, Affirm’s revenue totaled $ 174.0 million, up 98% compared to the year-ago quarter. That pace of expansion is faster than the company managed in its most recent full fiscal year.

Accelerating revenue growth with slimming losses is investor catnip; Affirm has likely enjoyed a healthy tailwind in 2020 thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic boosting ecommerce, and thus gave the unicorn more purchase in the realm of consumer spend.

Again, comparing the company’s most recent quarter to its year-ago analog, Affirm’s net losses dipped to just $ 15.3 million, down from $ 30.8 million.

Affirm’s financials on a quarterly basis — located on page 107 of its S-1 if you want to follow along — give us a more granular understanding of how the fintech company performed amidst the global pandemic. After an enormous fourth quarter in calendar year 2019, growing its revenues to $ 130.0 million from $ 87.9 million in the previous quarter, Affirm managed to keep growing in the first, second, and third calendar quarters of 2020. In those periods, the consumer fintech unicorn recorded a top line of $ 138.2 million, $ 153.3 million, and $ 174 million, as we saw before.

Perhaps best of all, the firm turned a profit of $ 34.8 million in the quarter ending June 30, 2020. That one-time profit, along with its slim losses in its most recent period make Affirm appear to be a company that won’t hurt for future net income, provided that it can keep growing as efficiently as it has recently.

The COVID-19 angle

The pandemic has had more impact on Affirm than its raw revenue figures can detail. Luckily its S-1 filing has more notes on how the company adapted and thrived during this Black Swan year.

Certain sectors provided the company with fertile ground for its loan service. Affirm said that it saw an increase in revenue from merchants focused on home-fitness equipment, office products, and home furnishings during the pandemic. For example, its top merchant partner, Peloton, represented approximately 28% of its total revenue for the 2020 fiscal year, and 30% of its total revenue for the three months ending September 30, 2020.

Peloton is a success story in 2020, seeing its share price rise sharply as its growth accelerated across an uptick in digital fitness.

Investors, while likely content to cheer Affirm’s rapid growth, may cast a gimlet eye at the company’s dependence for such a large percentage of its revenue from a single customer; especially one that is enjoying its own pandemic-boost. If its top merchant partner losses momentum, Affirm will feel the repercussions, fast.

Regardless, Affirm’s model is resonating with customers. We can see that in its gross merchandise volume, or total dollar amount of all transactions that it processes.

GMV at the startup has grown considerably year-over-year, as you likely expected given its rapid revenue growth. On page 22 of its S-1, Affirm indicates that in its 2019 fiscal year, GMV reached $ 2.62 billion, which scaled to $ 4.64 billion in 2020.

Akin to the company’s revenue growth, its GMV did not grow by quite 100% on a year-over-year basis. What made that growth possible? Reaching new customers. As of September 30, 2020, Affirm has more than 3.88 million “active customers,” which the company defines as a “consumer who engages in at least one transaction on our platform during the 12 months prior to the measurement date.” That figure is up from 2.38 million in the September 30, 2019 quarter.

The growth is nice by itself, but Affirm customers are also becoming more active over time, which provides a modest compounding effect. In its most recent quarters, active customers executed an average of 2.2 transactions, up from 2.0 in third quarter of calendar 2019.

Also powering Affirm has been an ocean of private capital. For Affirm, having access to cash is not quite the same as a strictly-software company, as it deals with debt, which likely gives the company a slightly higher predilection for cash than other startups of similar size.

Luckily for Affirm, it has been richly funded throughout its life as a private company. The fintech unicorn has raised funds well in excess of $ 1 billion before its IPO, including a $ 500 million Series G in September of 2020, a $ 300 million Series F in April of 2019, and a $ 200 million Series E in December of 2017. Affirm also raised more than $ 400 million in earlier equity rounds, and a $ 100 million debt line in late 2016.

What to make of the filing? Our first-read take is that Affirm is coming out of the private markets as a healthier business than the average unicorn. Sure, it has a history of operating losses and not yet proven its ability to turn a sustainable profit, but its accelerating revenue growth is promising, as are its falling losses.

More tomorrow, with fresh eyes.

Startups – TechCrunch

Public investors stay in love with tech, as Root and Affirm file to IPO

Editor’s note: Get this free weekly recap of TechCrunch news that any startup can use by email every Saturday morning (7 a.m. PT). Subscribe here.

Why are there so many tech IPOs right now? Startups are finding that they can get higher valuations from public markets than private ones these days, because so many public investors want to put serious money in tech. Also, the lure of the future, the benevolence of the Fed, the retail investor boom, the sheer number of unicorns that have been waiting for any decent moment to go, the new ways a company can go public… these are some of the reasons Alex Wilhelm found after reviewing the latest listings and quarterly data about tech in public markets.

Various political and economic turmoils threaten to end the run, but the impact to the startup world has arrived. Consider it for a minute before the newsletter dives into stocks, SPACs, emerging industries and other useful startup news.

From this IPO boom, there’ll be another wave of startup employee wealth flooding into adjacent real-world spaces, but spread more broadly outside of the Bay Area than the days of Facebook and Twitter IPOs. Some of those employees will become investors and maybe founders, and the now-public startups will replace those positions with big-company people. The dynamics around tech hiring will be further reshaped in surprising new ways, all combined with the other changes happening like remote work.

Today, if you’re founding a startup now, you can now confidently chart new ways to build your company long-term that previous generations of founders could barely imagine.

This coming decade, we might see a startup go public that raises from pre-seed rolling funds first, pulls in newly legalized crowdfunding, matches with the right VCs from among the thousands that have are operating these days — or perhaps the startup raises debt because it’s doing that well. It could stay private as long as it wants using the various financing and secondary market possibilities that have been figured out over the last decade. Then, when it is ready to go public, it could choose between traditional options, the perfect SPAC and a direct listing, and keep the shareholder pool in favor of the true believers who have been with the company over the course of the journey.

This current group of IPOs also demonstrates something else. Tech is no longer defined as some profitless, highly valued consumer tech startup in San Francisco. It can come from anywhere, it can solve practical problems, it can make real money, and it can keep building and growing — provided you’re okay with some ongoing risk. No wonder public markets like tech these days.

Take a look at Root Insurance, an insurtech unicorn that has already helped define the Columbus, Ohio startup scene. It’s a “startup Rorscach test,” as Alex details this week about its new IPO filing. “You can find things to like (improving adjusted margins! revenue growth!), and you can find things to not like (spiraling losses! negative margins!) very easily.”

Here’s more from the Extra Crunch article:

It appears that the tailwind that many insurance providers have seen during COVID-19 has provided Root with a nice boost (driving fell during the pandemic, leading some insurance providers to return premiums.) Root is taking advantage of the moment by filing when it can show sharply improved economics.

That’s smart. But how do those improved economics bear out in traditional accounting? Let’s find out:

  • Root’s revenue has skyrocketed from $ 43.3 million in 2018 to $ 290.2 million in 2019. In the first half of 2020, Root managed $ 245.4 million in revenue, up 135.73% from what it managed in the first half of 2019.
  • Root’s losses have also shot higher, from a net loss of $ 69.1 million in 2018 to $ 282.4 million in 2019. The startup has managed to consistently lose more money over time. This was also true more recently, when its H1 2020 net loss of $ 144.5 million dwarfed its H1 2019 loss of $ 97.0 million.

The other filing this week is for Affirm, which provides a point-of-sale credit for customers (without all the tricks of credit cards). It’s also a symbol of how innovation works across the decades, for those future founders who are studying the IPO experiments of unicorns today.

The company is a high-flying unicorn with a practical purpose from serial entrepreneur Max Levchin, who has also helped shape the concept of the modern startup — from cofounding Paypal and making numerous angel investments over the years, to Slide, a profitless, highly valued consumer tech company in San Francisco a decade ago. It’s not widely understood outside of tech, Slide and other social media companies helped pioneer the growth and engagement techniques that subsequent startups applied across SaaS, e-commerce, fintech and real-world sectors. Today, Root and Affirm and many of the other companies in this era of IPOs are standing on the lessons of those years.

Image Credits: Getty Images

SPAC growing pains

Special Purpose Acquisition Companies are sure to provide valuable lessons, as a growing group of startups use these investment vehicles to ease into public markets. Here’s the latest look at the action, starting with this disturbing quote that Connie Loizos got from one expert this week.

According to Kristi Marvin, a former investment banker who now runs the data site SPACInsider, she’s having, and hearing about, conversations with a much wider range of people interested in launching SPACs than in past years — and not all of them are necessarily equipped to manage the vehicles.

“You ask, ‘Have you ever acquired a company for $ 500 million or more? Do you have operating experience in the vertical that you’re targeting? Do you understand the reporting requirements involved?’ Often,” she says, “the answers are no.”

That was in the context of a controversial former Uber executive starting a SPAC; Connie also looked at gender representation in this emerging slice of high finance. Like other parts of that world, the people involve are almost entirely men (which is also continuing to be the case in startup funding, actually, Alex reports).

Meanwhile, Catherine Shu examined how troubled electric vehicle startup Faraday Futures is approaching SPAC plans, while Alex took a closer look at the challenges and opportunities facing Opendoor.

micromobility-ebikes-scooters

Image Credits: Getty Images

The future of mobility

Our annual conference on mobility and the future of transportation happened online this year, which means we have lots of easily accessible conference coverage to share for readers (and for Extra Crunch subscribers). Here are a few key headlines to help you focus your clicks:

What micromobility is missing

Quarantine drives interest in autonomous delivery, but it’s still miles from mainstream

Transportation VCs suggest frayed US-China ties will impact mobility markets (EC)

GettyImages 1063730694

Image Credits: Getty Images

Investor Surveys: APIs, Helsinki and Amsterdam

“I am surprised at how open companies are to a SaaS API for something as critical as cybersecurity,” Skyflow founder Anshu Sharma explains about the explosion of SaaS companies, and specifically API service providers like his company. “While I have spent over a decade in SaaS including some very large deals during my time at Salesforce, the scope of the projects by large companies including banks and healthcare companies is simply beyond what was a possibility just a few years ago. We have truly moved from ‘why SaaS’ to a ‘why not SaaS’ era.” Alex and Lucas Matney surveyed a range of top investors and founders in this exploding niche, and you can read the full thing on Extra Crunch.

Elsewhere in investor surveys, Mike Butcher checked out the Helsinki startup scene and has another about Amsterdam in progress.

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Extra Crunch

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#EquityPod

From Alex:

Hello and welcome back to Equity, TechCrunch’s venture capital-focused podcast (now on Twitter!), where we unpack the numbers behind the headlines.

This week Natasha was on vacation, so Danny and your humble servant had to endeavor alone. She’s back next week, so we’ll be back to full strength as a collective soon enough.

But even with a depleted hosting crew, we had a mountain of news to get through. And to joke about, as Danny was in the mood for a laugh. Here’s the rundown:

That was a lot. We did our best. Hugs and chat with you next week!

Equity drops every Monday at 7:00 a.m. PT and Thursday afternoon as fast as we can get it out, so subscribe to us on Apple PodcastsOvercastSpotify and all the casts.

Startups – TechCrunch