Asana’s debut shows appetite for its alternative IPO path, even with a crowded market
"I feel great with where we landed," said Asana's CFO Tim Wan.
Asana closed trading on Wednesday at $28.80 in its public market debut, up slightly from where it opened at $27. The company's entrance into the market was a test of how much investors would buy into the direct listing process and also Asana's future in a crowded work management landscape.
So far, there's clearly an appetite for both when it comes to Asana.
"I feel great with where we landed. I think our employees are happy, our new investors are happy," said Asana's CFO Tim Wan. "It's one day in many days of trading and many milestones that we'll have ahead, but I think we all feel good with the outcome and the stock has traded in a pretty tight band."
Asana had taken an alternative route to going public by pursuing a direct listing where it doesn't sell shares, following the path of Slack and Spotify. The company was already well-capitalized so it didn't feel the need to take on alternative dilution, and Wan also viewed it as a "more democratic" path since it allowed existing shareholders and employees ways to participate in the market debut without the traditional six month lockup.
He also wanted a "more efficient" price discovery process to really understand where the market priced it, Wan said.
Recent traditional tech IPOs like Snowflake's have come under criticism for their pricing, which led to massive pops on trading days. In fact, looking at 15 large tech IPOs, all but one had a pop on trading. That's led to another round of fighting over whether tech companies are "leaving money on the table" by going the traditional IPO route. Now, there's a lot of experimentation around IPO paths, from changing up traditional lockup periods to the direct listing to the new surge in SPACs, or special purpose acquisition companies that take companies public through reverse mergers.
But on Wednesday, it was the direct listings' time to shine with both Palantir and Asana going public through the direct listing. Unlike Asana, Palantir's stock fizzled out, as company insiders complained that they couldn't sell because of a software glitch.
Palantir's team was also coming to grips with the new reality of being a publicly traded business. "I'm trying to realize how much of a luxury it really was [being private], of not looking at the stock price on a daily basis," COO Shyam Sankar told Protocol after he was informed of his stock's slip, adding that he would be "maniacally and monastically [focused] on creating long-term value."
"I don't think we were planning to be on the same day, it just so happened that it's really just a coincidence," Wan said.
Despite being a crowded market, it was clear investors were interested in Asana's task management tools. Founded in 2008 by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz and early Facebook employee Justin Rosenstein, the San Francisco-based startup had earned the moniker of the "anti-Facebook" for its approach to growth that was the opposite of "move fast and break things."
Twelve years later, companies like Google, Deloitte and NASA all use Asana's software to manage their to-do lists and internal projects.
But it's not without competition, and the newly public company will now have to report on a quarterly basis just where it stacks up. Its closest publicly traded competitors are apps like Atlassian-owned Trello and Smartsheet, whose stocks traded just a smidge down on Wednesday. Then there's the competition from other startups, ranging from Monday.com to Airtable, which just raised another $185 million at a valuation over $2.5 billion.
Going public doesn't change much for Asana in terms of its operations, but Wan thinks being a publicly traded company will hold more weight as it goes after bigger enterprise customers. And he views the competition as a sign of just how much opportunity there is to grow.
"It's a very green field opportunity, and we think we're the leader," Wan said. "A lot of companies view it as, 'Wow, there's 1.3 billion knowledge workers out there,' and the vast majority don't have anything for work management. So this is just a great opportunity, and we have a lot of runway for growth."
Biz Carson ( @bizcarson) is a San Francisco-based reporter at Protocol, covering Silicon Valley with a focus on startups and venture capital. Previously, she reported for Forbes and was co-editor of Forbes Next Billion-Dollar Startups list. Before that, she worked for Business Insider, Gigaom, and Wired and started her career as a newspaper designer for Gannett.