Source Code: Your daily look at what matters in tech.

pipelinepipelineauthorBiz CarsonNoneDo you know what's going on in the venture capital and startup world? Get the Pipeline newsletter every Saturday.021fce003e
×

Get access to Protocol

Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

I’m already a subscriber

The tech IPOs to watch in 2021

Get ready for a lot more listings in the new year.

The tech IPOs to watch in 2021

Tech's love affair with Wall Street is going to continue into 2021.

Photo: Angela Weiss/Getty Images

The second half of 2020 has been an IPO bonanza. So far, it looks like 2021 will be more of the same.

Affirm and Roblox, which delayed their listings in 2020, are almost certain to go public, and they'll be joined by some of the biggest companies in tech, such as crypto exchange Coinbase.

Here are the IPOs you need to know about for 2021.

Already flipped an S-1

Roblox

The gaming platform pushed off its December 2020 IPO to 2021 after deciding to reassess its pricing strategies in the wake of huge pops from the Airbnb and DoorDash IPOs. Sources told Reuters that Roblox viewed the Airbnb and DoorDash IPOs as under-priced and hoped to get a higher IPO price in the new year.

  • What it does: The free-to-play gaming platform is a massive hit with more than 31 million average daily active users during the pandemic, up from 17 million the year before. It makes money through the sale of "Robux" and a premium subscription service.
  • Financials: Because it's flipped its S-1, we already have an inside look. The company experienced big COVID-19 tailwinds, with revenue in the first three quarters of 2020 reaching $209 million, up from $72 million in the same period in 2019. The company was last valued by private market investors at $4 billion in early 2020.
  • The names you should know: A founder-run company, CEO and co-founder David Baszucki officially launched Roblox in 2006 after working on it for a couple years. Sadly, co-founder Erik Cassel died of cancer in February 2013. Roblox's CFO, Mike Guthrie, is a later addition, joining Roblox in 2018 after taking TrueCar public. The big investor winner will be Altos Ventures, which owns over 21% of the company.
  • What to look for: After pausing the IPO process, we'll see if Roblox decides to add in different pricing controls or pursue an entirely different path to a public listing. Gaming is unlikely to become less popular over the holidays, but longer term, the big question is whether Roblox can sustain its revenue and engagement levels in a post-COVID world.

Affirm

Similar to Roblox, the fintech company also pushed off its highly-anticipated 2020 IPO, but it wasn't as much over pricing concerns. The company is reportedly placing much of the blame on the SEC's lack of responsiveness about its IPO during this busy period rather than skittishness over the market.
  • What it does: Affirm is a consumer lending company that allows people to break big-ticket purchases into a series of smaller payments, including from retailers like Expedia, Walmart and Peloton.
  • Financials: The company nearly doubled its revenues last year, bringing in roughly $510 million for a fiscal year ending June 30. Pitchbook lists its most recent valuation at around $2.9 billion, but that was from April 2019.
  • The names you should know: It's a second act for PayPal co-founder Max Levchin, who started Affirm in 2012 and told me in 2014 that he wanted to build a "multihundred-year company." Levchin will be front and center of the roadshow, but Affirm's CFO is former HP exec Michael Linford.
  • What to look for: Around a third of Affirm's revenue comes from one customer: Peloton. It's a risk factor in its S-1 and certainly a risk factor depending on how you feel about Peloton's future as a COVID-19 vaccine rolls out in the next year.

Poshmark

The secondhand sales platform snuck in just before the holidays, making its S-1 public at the end of December with plans to list in the new year.

  • What it does: The company is known for its secondhand retail empire where people can post their own items for sale in the app, comment on listings and buy from others. Entrepreneurs are now building entire businesses around sales on Poshmark, and it has expanded over time from a focus on clothes into categories like home decor and beauty. In the first nine months of 2020, it had revenue of $193 million, making a small profit of $8 million.
  • Funding: The company last raised funding in 2017 at a $625 million valuation and has cumulatively raised around $160 million according to PitchBook.
  • The names you should know: Co-founder and CEO Manish Chandra runs Poshmark, along with his co-founders Tracy Sun, Gautam Golwala and Chetan Pungaliya, who all remain at the company. Its CFO Anan Kashyap is experienced with the IPO process, having worked on over 20 deals at Deutsche Bank before helping Kayak with the execution of its IPO.
  • What to look for: Poshmark's IPO will be heavily compared to ThredUp's, a similar clothing resale business also looking to go public — though the two have very different business models. It will come down to clear storytelling from the company to make sure investors understand the difference between the two, or they will end up in the world of Lyft versus Uber comparisons.

Confidentially filed

Coinbase

Coinbase has had a tumultuous year, to say the least. While many in tech will best remember it for the controversy around its employees' politics, it's also been a major beneficiary of Bitcoin's soaring price. In December, the company announced it had confidentially filed its S-1.

  • What it does: Coinbase is the largest cryptocurrency exchange in the U.S., estimated to hold around 5.4% of all Bitcoin in circulation. It's recently started expanding into institutional investing too, acquiring broker platform Tagomi.
  • Funding: Coinbase has raised $525 million, with the bulk of that coming from a $300 million funding round in 2018. That round valued it at just over $8 billion, and it hasn't raised since.
  • Names to know: Brian Armstrong, Coinbase's polarizing CEO, will likely do well from a listing. Keep an eye on Andreessen Horowitz, too: Though Christopher Dixon was the partner that led the firm's investment, Marc Andreessen — who has his fair share of public company experience — joined Coinbase's board in September and was elevated to director status in December.
  • What to watch for: Coinbase may end up being the first crypto exchange to list, which might make it even more of a magnet for many of the industry's regulatory concerns. Armstrong has already started fretting about rumored plans at the U.S. Treasury, which he says could have "unintended side effects."

Bumble

Dating app company Bumble could be looking to make its match with the public markets around Valentine's Day. The company has reportedly confidentially filed for an IPO with plans to list in February, and it could value it at $6 billion to $8 billion, according to Bloomberg.

  • What it does: Bumble is known for its dating app, but the company also owns Badoo. Bumble counts around 100 million users, but the combined apps under the Bumble company reach around 600 million people, according to Fast Company.
  • Funding: Bumble is majority-owned by the Blackstone Group, which struck a deal in November 2019 to acquire the majority stake of MagicLab. That deal valued Bumble company at $3 billion.
  • The names you should know: Whitney Wolfe Herd is the founder of Bumble after being a big part of the early days of Tinder. She started Bumble with the help of MagicLab's Andrey Andreev, a Russian billionaire who provided the initial funding for a stake in the company. However, after a Forbes investigation revealed claims of rampant misogyny and sexism in the workplace, Andreev sold his stake in MagicLab to Blackstone as part of the 2019 deal, and Wolfe Herd became CEO of the company, which was renamed under the Bumble brand.
  • What to look for: The pandemic has certainly changed how people date, but it doesn't mean people have stopped. According to Apptopia, dating app usage has generally grown in the pandemic (blame isolation). Whether that usage has translated into revenue for the businesses is a big unknown.

UiPath

UiPath could be looking to double its valuation to over $20 billion in a 2021 IPO. The software startup, which specializes in robotic process automation, told Bloomberg in December that it had confidentially filed for an IPO. It has also reportedly picked banks in anticipation of a public offering in the first half of 2021.

  • What it does: UiPath creates bots that helps companies do "mindless" tasks like data entry, making it one of the biggest names in robotic process automation.
  • Funding: The company has raised around $1.2 billion, including a $225 million round in July that valued the company at $10.2 billion, according to PitchBook. According to Bloomberg, the company is currently doing $500 million in ARR.
  • The names you should know: UiPath's CEO and co-founder Daniel Dines is considered the world's first "bot billionaire," according to Forbes. He started the company with Marius Tirca, UiPath's co-founder and CTO. Its CFO Ashim Gupta joined the company in 2018 after spending his career rising through the ranks at GE.
  • What to look for: UiPath competes against companies like Automation Anywhere, but the big cloud giants like Microsoft are certainly taking notice of RPA platforms. Some even suspect that Microsoft could end up buying the company before it makes it to the public markers.

ThredUp

Speaking of which, the other secondhand clothing retailer looking to go public announced in October that it had confidentially filed for an IPO.

  • What it does: Unlike Poshmark, which has a marketplace that connects buyers and sellers, ThredUp is more like an online consignment and thrift store. It receives items from people and then re-sells them through its website.
  • Funding: The company has raised a total of around $340 million, most recently with an estimated $670 million valuation in 2019, according to PitchBook.
  • The names you should know: Co-founder and CEO James Reinhart has been running ThredUp for the last 12 years, alongside his other co-founders: current COO Chris Homer and Oliver Lubin, who left the company in 2017. ThredUp's CFO Sean Sobers joined the company in 2019 after taking the Wi-Fi company Quantenna public.
  • What to look for: Ecommerce is a category that has done well in certain sectors this year, and ThredUp likely saw a boost from all the Marie Kondo-style decluttering that got done during lockdown. It'll still face a struggle to differentiate itself from other secondhand retailers like Poshmark during its IPO process.

Getting the ball rolling

Instacart

The food delivery company saw a boost thanks to the pandemic, and it's only accelerated its IPO plans from there. CNBC reported that the company is eyeing a $30 billion IPO in early 2021 now that the ballot proposition for AB 5 was passed in California.

  • What it does: Instacart built a grocery delivery empire that's only expanded to more non-food essentials through deals with companies like Target, BuyBuyBaby and Ulta. Workforce treatment complaints dog the company, but the passing of AB 5 cleared a major risk factor from its S-1 since there won't be a lurking regulatory threat.
  • Funding: Instacart has raised an estimated $2.47 billion, including a $200 million round in October that valued the company at $17.7 billion, according to PitchBook.
  • Names to know: Instacart's CEO and co-founder Apoorva Mehta is already considered a billionaire, according to Forbes. Its former CFO, Ravi Gupta, left to join Sequoia Capital in 2019, and Sagar Sanghvi was promoted to the role.
  • What to watch for: Instacart is facing a lawsuit over its service fees, and the company has encountered a lot of scrutiny over its tipping practices. A revealing of its finances will be closely watched by both an investor base and its delivery network.

Flipkart

Jio Platforms may have garnered more attention in 2020, but Flipkart is still India's biggest online retailer, estimated to have had a 66% market share during the recent festive period. In 2021, investors might finally be able to get in on the action: The company has reportedly hired Goldman Sachs to work on the IPO, which could raise $10 billion, valuing the company around $40 billion. For current owner Walmart, the IPO would come a year ahead of schedule: When it acquired Flipkart in 2018, it said it would list it within four years.

  • What it does: Flipkart has a sprawling ecommerce empire. Unlike Amazon, it's managed to crack fashion, thanks to its 2014 acquisition of Myntra. It also owns popular mobile wallet PhonePe, though it partially spun some of that off in December.
  • Funding: Flipkart raised over $7 billion before its acquisition by Walmart, which valued the company around $20.8 billion. Earlier this year, Walmart led a $1.2 billion funding round in the company at a $24.9 billion valuation.
  • Names to know: Walmart will be the biggest winner in an IPO, owning around 82% of the company. But it's not the only one: Tencent, Tiger Global, Microsoft and Accel all own stakes too, as does co-founder Binny Bansal.
  • What to watch for: Flipkart is under an antitrust investigation from Indian regulators, having been accused of unfair discounting practices. Investors' response to the IPO will show whether they view the probe as a genuine risk.

Robinhood

You might not have guessed in March that a stock trading app would be one of the biggest winners from a pandemic, yet here we are. With sports canceled and an awful lot of people stuck at home, "boredom trading" surged this year. Robinhood, which enabled many of those people to invest in the booming stock market, grew along with them: Its valuation went from $8.6 billion in July to $11.7 billion in September. The company has reportedly hired Goldman Sachs to lead its IPO, which could value the company at over $20 billion.

  • What it does: While it's best known for its stock-trading features, Robinhood has far grander ambitions. It's launched cryptocurrency trading and a debit card, and even bought a financial media company.
  • Funding: Robinhood has raised $2.17 billion in total, with a most recent valuation of $11.7 billion.
  • Names to know: After Baiju Bhatt stepped down in November, fellow co-founder Vlad Tenev is the company's sole CEO. Index Ventures is the company's lead investor, and general partner Jan Hammer sits on its board.
  • What to watch for: Once again, it's regulation. The SEC is reportedly investigating the company for failing to disclose its deals with high-speed trading firms, with the potential for a $10 million fine; both the SEC and FINRA are investigating its outage from March this year; and Massachusetts filed a complaint against it for failing to protect inexperienced investors. How much risk will investors be willing to tolerate?

Marqeta

The fintech might not get as much attention as some of its peers, but it's quietly built a huge business. It's reportedly working with Goldman Sachs and JPMorgan on an IPO, with plans to list at a $10 billion valuation.

  • What it does: Marqeta provides a series of APIs that allow other companies to issue cards. For instance, Instacart uses it to issue their drivers with debit cards that they can use to pay for customers' deliveries. Marqeta offers some innovative features on top of that, such as real-time transaction authorization.
  • Funding: The company has raised over $527 million, according to PitchBook, with a valuation of around $4.3 billion as of May 2020.
  • Names to know: Traditional financial institutions could benefit from Marqeta's listing: MasterCard, Visa and Goldman are all investors. Founder and CEO Jason Gardner has kept a low profile so far — he only has 800 Twitter followers! — but that could change as the company goes public.
  • What to watch for: Marqeta's listing could serve as a bellwether for one of fintech's biggest companies: Stripe. The latter has made it clear that it has no plans to IPO any time soon, and is reportedly in the middle of raising a round at an over $70 billion valuation. If Marqeta does particularly well, though, perhaps Stripe's Collison brothers may change their mind.

Databricks

Investors loved Snowflake's IPO, so Databricks and its enterprise AI platform could be well-positioned to go public in 2021. The company is reportedly in talks with bankers, but hasn't hired underwriters yet despite plans to go public at a "significantly higher" valuation than its current $6.2 billion, according to Bloomberg.

  • What it does: It solves a big problem for organizations: figuring out how to combine information stored disparately across the enterprise so it can be more effectively analyzed. And the company's platform also allows data scientists to collaborate on building predictive AI models on top of it to generate insights.
  • Funding: The company had raised a total of around $900 million at a $6.2 billion valuation as of October 2019, according to PitchBook.
  • The names you should know: Databricks has seven co-founders who are all still at the company, including Ali Ghodsi, who took over the CEO role in 2016. Its CFO David Conte has also done this before: he took Splunk public in 2012. An IPO would also be a big win for Andreessen Horowitz, whose co-founder Ben Horowitz sits on the board.
  • What to look for: Can the Snowflake lightning strike twice? Databricks will likely be betting that the investor interest in Snowflake is in the overall category and there's appetite for competition.

The wild card

Ant Group

Ant was set to have the biggest IPO in history this year, with plans to raise around $35 billion. But those grand plans came to a screeching halt when Chinese authorities — reportedly directed by Xi Jinping — forced the company to pull its listing. The company is now conducting a "comprehensive self-review," and it's unclear when it will be ready to re-list: Bloomberg reports it could be as late as 2022.

  • What it does: The fintech giant started out as a mobile payments application, but has since expanded to become a comprehensive financial tech company. It licenses out its platform to financial services companies so they can offer loans, insurance and investment options on Alipay. Until now, the vast majority of loans on its platform have been offered by third parties, rather than Ant itself — but new rules might change that.
  • Funding: Ant's raised around $23 billion to date, and was expected to be valued around $313 billion in its IPO.
  • The names you should know: It's all about Jack Ma. Ma's criticism of Chinese regulators is said to have irritated authorities, so expect him to take a much quieter approach this time round. Chairman Eric Jing and CEO Simon Hu may play a larger role instead.
  • What to look for: The big question is how profitable Ant will be after new regulations are put in place: Some think the company's valuation could halve. And with Ant and Jack Ma no longer in the government's good books, investors might see the deal as too risky to bother with.
Latest Stories