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Power

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.

Co-founder Dustin Moskovitz

Asana, co-founded by Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, closed trading on Wednesday at $28.80 in its public market debut.

Photo: Asana

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."

Politics

'Woke tech' and 'the new slave power': Conservatives gather for Vegas summit

An agenda for the event, hosted by the Claremont Institute, listed speakers including U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton.

The so-called "Digital Statecraft Summit" was organized by the Claremont Institute. The speakers include U.S. CTO Michael Kratsios and Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, as well as a who's-who of far-right provocateurs.

Photo: David Vives/Unsplash

Conservative investors, political operatives, right-wing writers and Trump administration officials are quietly meeting in Las Vegas this weekend to discuss topics including China, "woke tech" and "the new slave power," according to four people who were invited to attend or speak at the event as well as a copy of the agenda obtained by Protocol.

The so-called "Digital Statecraft Summit" was organized by the Claremont Institute, a conservative think tank that says its mission is to "restore the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life." A list of speakers for the event includes a combination of past and current government officials as well as a who's who of far-right provocateurs. One speaker, conservative legal scholar John Eastman, rallied the president's supporters at a White House event before the Capitol Hill riot earlier this month. Some others have been associated with racist ideologies.

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Emily Birnbaum

Emily Birnbaum ( @birnbaum_e) is a tech policy reporter with Protocol. Her coverage focuses on the U.S. government's attempts to regulate one of the most powerful industries in the world, with a focus on antitrust, privacy and politics. Previously, she worked as a tech policy reporter with The Hill after spending several months as a breaking news reporter. She is a Bethesda, Maryland native and proud Kenyon College alumna.

Doxxing insurrectionists: Capitol riot divides online extremism researchers

The uprising has sparked a tense debate about the right way to stitch together the digital scraps of someone's life to publicly accuse them of committing a crime.

Rioters scale the U.S. Capitol walls during the insurrection.

Photo: Blink O'faneye/Flickr

Joan Donovan has a panic button in her office, just in case one of the online extremists she spends her days fighting tries to fight back.

"This is not baby shit," Donovan, who is research director of Harvard's Shorenstein Center on Media, Politics and Public Policy, said. "You do not fuck around with these people in public."

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Issie Lapowsky
Issie Lapowsky (@issielapowsky) is a senior reporter at Protocol, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University’s Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing. Email Issie.
People

Poshmark made ecommerce social. Wall Street is on board.

"When we go social, we're not going back," says co-founder Tracy Sun.

Tracy Sun is Poshmark's co-founder and SVP of new markets.

Photo: Poshmark/Ken Jay

Investors were keen to buy into Poshmark's vision for the future of retail — one that is social, online and secondhand. The company's stock price more than doubled within a few minutes of its Nasdaq debut this morning, rising from $42 to $103.

Poshmark is anything but an overnight success. The California-based company, founded in 2011, has steadily attracted a community of 31.7 million active users to its marketplace for secondhand apparel, accessories, footwear, home and beauty products. In 2019, these users spent an average of 27 minutes per day on the platform, placing it in the same realm as some of the most popular social media services. This is likely why Poshmark points out in its S-1 that it isn't just an ecommerce platform, but a "social marketplace." Users can like, comment, share and follow other buyers and sellers on the platform.

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Hirsh Chitkara
Hirsh Chitkara (@ChitkaraHirsh) is a researcher at Protocol, based out of New York City. Before joining Protocol, he worked for Business Insider Intelligence, where he wrote about Big Tech, telecoms, workplace privacy, smart cities, and geopolitics. He also worked on the Strategy & Analytics team at the Cleveland Indians.
People

Affirm CEO Max Levchin: ‘I see an ocean of opportunities’

The fintech startup's stock soared more than 90% in its IPO debut today.

It was a blockbuster debut for Affirm. The fintech startup's shares soared more than 90% when it went public on Wednesday.

The day itself began quietly for CEO Max Levchin: He kicked it off with a Zoom call with his kids, made a latte for his wife and joined a group chat with some high school friends, one of whom is recovering from COVID-19. "We were very happy to hear that he's doing well," he told Protocol shortly after his startup began trading on the Nasdaq Global Exchange.

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Benjamin Pimentel

Benjamin Pimentel ( @benpimentel) covers fintech from San Francisco. He has reported on many of the biggest tech stories over the past 20 years for the San Francisco Chronicle, Dow Jones MarketWatch and Business Insider, from the dot-com crash, the rise of cloud computing, social networking and AI to the impact of the Great Recession and the COVID crisis on Silicon Valley and beyond. He can be reached at bpimentel@protocol.com or via Signal at (510)731-8429.

Power

Affirm takes 'buy now, pay later' public today. Investors may balk at the risk.

The San Francisco startup's rise highlights the rapid growth of payment and lending platforms, especially among millennials.

Affirm, the "buy now, pay later" startup, is going public on Wednesday in one of the most anticipated IPOs this year.

Affirm's IPO, which could value the company at a reported $10 billion, highlights the rapid growth of ecommerce and related payment and lending platforms amid the pandemic, as well as new ways that consumers, particularly younger ones, seek to make purchases: Many are eschewing credit cards to avoid going into debt.

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Tomio Geron

Tomio Geron ( @tomiogeron) is a San Francisco-based reporter covering fintech. He was previously a reporter and editor at The Wall Street Journal, covering venture capital and startups. Before that, he worked as a staff writer at Forbes, covering social media and venture capital, and also edited the Midas List of top tech investors. He has also worked at newspapers covering crime, courts, health and other topics. He can be reached at tgeron@protocol.com or tgeron@protonmail.com.

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