indexindexauthorShakeel HashimNoneNeed to dive deep into the financial movements that matter to tech? Get Shakeel Hashim's newsletter every Friday.f11fbe35a3
×

Get access to Protocol

I’ve already subscribed

Will be used in accordance with our Privacy Policy

People

How to IPO in the middle of a pandemic

"I've had to stop calls to go and shoo the emus away," ZoomInfo's CFO Cameron Hyzer said.

Times Square

ZoomInfo's CEO Henry Schuck and his family virtually ringing the Nasdaq's opening bell.

Photo: Courtesy of ZoomInfo

An IPO is always a manic time for a company, but even by those standards, ZoomInfo's has been particularly intense. The business contact database, used by salespeople to find new leads, has not only had to conduct much of the process remotely, it's also launching into the most uncertain economic environment in living memory. Not that that's proved to be much of a problem: The company priced well above its initial target, with shares jumping 90% upon its trading debut.

"It's been a little crazy," CFO Cameron Hyzer said ahead of the company's listing this morning. Hyzer, who is currently in Maine, said the process has brought all sorts of unexpected challenges. "Our neighbors apparently have emus," he said, "so I've had to stop calls to go and shoo the emus away." Despite those animal-related incursions, the process has been a good one, Hyzer said — and it's turned out about as well as he could have hoped for. As long as you don't confuse his stock with Zoom Video's, that is.

The following interview has been lightly edited for clarity and length.

What has this week been like?

It's been a little crazy. I think every roadshow and IPO has its own idiosyncrasies — obviously ours is a little different because we're doing this from home. It's all done on videoconferences and phone calls. But it's been exciting. I think we've got a great reception from different investors, and it's been great to find investors that are really focused on the long-term story.

You confidentially filed for an IPO back in December, which was obviously a very different world. What was the thinking like when the pandemic hit?

First and foremost, we wanted to make sure that all of our employees were safe and that our business would continue to run. We very quickly shifted toward making sure that work-from-home worked for everyone, that everyone had what they needed. And then we kind of just watched the markets, and through that time period we had obviously met with investors. Investors kept coming to us and saying, "Look, we understand that this is a weird time, but we're still very interested, and we think that this is a potential company that really could go public right now." As the market has kind of settled down a little and, there's a bit of normalcy, at least in terms of the markets, we kept reassessing and decided that this was actually a good time for us to get through the process, so we can get back to building the business and really focusing on the future.

What were you looking for in terms of the market settling?

One of the things that the bankers very much focus on is volatility. IPO is a process that — for us it took a week — usually takes two weeks. So you want to have some confidence that there's not going to be major shocks or drops or other issues around how investors are thinking about valuation and how they assess businesses.

In March, as an example, volatility was at record levels and, every day things changed. That wasn't a good time to kind of start a two-week process to court investors and create new long-term relationships. But as the volatility came back to more normal levels — there's a lot of ways that people look at it, but if you look at the VIX index, we're back into the 20s, which is a more normal time. And obviously with a shortened roadshow, because we're doing it all virtually, there's less travel — you don't have to spend quite as much time on planes and hotels and so forth. I think everyone got comfortable that this was as good a time as any.

Did any of the unrest in the last few days with the Black Lives Matter protests affect your thinking at all?

It's a tough backdrop, but we had actually started the process before a lot of that came into being. And so we obviously have a lot of feelings about the unrest and injustice in the world, but getting through the process was something that we just needed to kind of keep powering through.

It's been reported that your IPO was massively oversubscribed. What did investors seem to be so keen on?

We think we have a really special business because we drive operating profitability and high growth together, and we do it in a market where we serve basically any business that sells to another business. I think that the really big opportunity over the long term, the fact that we continue to grow, and continue to grow profitably, are all aspects that people get really excited about.

Did you get a sense from investors that they liked or didn't like doing this remotely?

We had the advantage that we'd already started the process and talked to a lot of people. So we've met a lot of people in person already. For those people that we're meeting for the first time, I think they've gotten a little more used to doing things from home. The great thing about people in general is they're generally resilient. So they've gotten used to doing things through videoconference or whatever else. I don't know that it's 100% the same, but it's certainly worked well for us, and I think people got really comfortable and excited about the story.

Do you get to do a virtual bell-ringing?

We are going to do a virtual bell-ringing. In the theory of there are good things and bad things, certainly it would have been more exciting to be in New York, we're listing on the NASDAQ so it would have been in Times Square with lots of big lights and great things. But realistically, this is just one small part of our journey. Henry [Schuck] founded this company 13 years ago, and we're excited about what the next 13 years or longer have to offer.

Have you seen any benefit from the whole pivot to remote work, now that people can't go to conferences to find customers?

Part of the value we think we deliver to customers is helping them sell more effectively and efficiently, and we do that with data and insights and technology. One of the things that we've always felt is an inefficient way to go to market is taking people out to dinners and ballgames and flying across the country. Our platform just natively helps people find their customers without having to spend as much time and money on those inefficient methodologies. That was a trend that we saw before COVID, but certainly the fact that you can't be taking people out to dinner and there aren't ball games to go to — I think it's put into starker relief that there is a more efficient way to do things, and we help companies do that.

What are your plans for the next six to 12 months?

With the proceeds from the offering we are going to pay down some of our debt and continue to focus on just growing the business. Our real goal is a much longer-term time horizon. We think of the world as really delivering tactical go-to-market, helping every salesperson or marketing person on an individual level just be more effective and more efficient, so they can hit their number and continue to be successful.

Do you think people will confuse your stock with Zoom Video's, as they did with Zoom Technologies'?

We hope not. Zoom [Video] is actually a good customer of ours. We help them continue to drive growth within their business as well. One of the confusions is that the other Zoom [Zoom Technologies] actually had a ticker that was ZOOM [it's since been changed to ZTNO]. Our ticker is ZI. I think our investors are very focused on ZI is ZoomInfo, and we're hoping that doesn't get confused with Zoom Video. And ultimately, I think we're focused on really engaging with our investors and continuing to grow. So hopefully there's very little confusion going forward.

Microsoft wants to replace artists with AI

Better Zoom calls, simpler email attachments, smart iPhone cases and other patents from Big Tech.

Turning your stories into images.

Image: USPTO/Microsoft

Hello and welcome to 2021! The Big Tech patent roundup is back, after a short vacation and … all the things … that happened between the start of the year and now. It seems the tradition of tech companies filing weird and wonderful patents has carried into the new year; there are some real gems from the last few weeks. Microsoft is trying to outsource all creative endeavors to AI; Apple wants to make seat belts less annoying; and Amazon wants to cut down on some of the recyclable waste that its own success has inevitably created.

And remember: The big tech companies file all kinds of crazy patents for things, and though most never amount to anything, some end up defining the future.

Keep Reading Show less
Mike Murphy

Mike Murphy ( @mcwm) is the director of special projects at Protocol, focusing on the industries being rapidly upended by technology and the companies disrupting incumbents. Previously, Mike was the technology editor at Quartz, where he frequently wrote on robotics, artificial intelligence, and consumer electronics.

Power

Everything you need to know about the Roblox direct listing

The company is expected to go public via direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange in February.

Roblox CEO David Baszucki is taking the company public.

Photo: Ian Tuttle/Getty Images

Roblox is a video game platform, though it describes itself alternatively as a "metaverse," "human co-experience platform" and "new category of human interaction." It's expected to go public via direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange in February.

In simpler terms, Roblox enables developers to build games within the Roblox virtual world, which looks like a crossover between Minecraft and Lego. Developers publish and distribute their games through Roblox to an audience of some 31.1 million daily active users.

Keep Reading Show less
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

The future of the cell phone, according to the man who invented it

Martin Cooper on 5G, AI, and why sometimes in tech it's helpful to have an enemy.

Martin Cooper with his original DynaTAC cell phone.

Photo: Ted Soqui/Getty Images

Martin Cooper helped invent one of the most consequential and successful products in history: the cell phone. And almost five decades after he made the first public cell phone call, on a 2-pound brick of a device called the DynaTAC, he's written a book about his career called "Cutting the Cord: The Cell Phone Has Transformed Humanity." In it he tells the story of the cell phone's invention, and looks at how it has changed the world and will continue to do so.

Cooper came on the Source Code Podcast to talk about his time at Motorola, the process of designing the first-ever cell phone, whether today's tech giants are monopolies and why he's bullish on the future of AI.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editor at large. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

People

What $9 billion would do for the Technology Modernization Fund

The Alliance for Digital Innovation's Matthew T. Cornelius looks at how a new administration's big investment could alter the fund he helped set up.

The funding itself is only half the battle.

Photo: Joshua Sukoff/Unsplash

The Biden administration wants to give the Technology Modernization Fund a $9 billion payday. In doing so, they could change what the fund actually does.

Matthew T. Cornelius, now the Alliance for Digital Innovation's executive director, was instrumental in getting the fund off the ground back in 2018. As a senior adviser for technology and cybersecurity policy at the White House's Office of Management and Budget, he helped make some of the fund's first investments in government IT modernization. At the time, though, there was only about $100 million in the fund.

Keep Reading Show less
Kevin McAllister

Kevin McAllister ( @k__mcallister) is an associate editor at Protocol, leading the development of Braintrust. Prior to joining the team, he was a rankings data reporter at The Wall Street Journal, where he oversaw structured data projects for the Journal's strategy team.

People

Amazon’s head of Alexa Trust on how Big Tech should talk about data

Anne Toth, Amazon's director of Alexa Trust, explains what it takes to get people to feel comfortable using your product — and why that is work worth doing.

Anne Toth, Amazon's director of Alexa Trust, has been working on tech privacy for decades.

Photo: Amazon

Anne Toth has had a long career in the tech industry, thinking about privacy and security at companies like Yahoo, Google and Slack, working with the World Economic Forum and advising companies around Silicon Valley.

Last August she took on a new job as the director of Alexa Trust, leading a big team tackling a big question: How do you make people feel good using a product like Alexa, which is designed to be deeply ingrained in their lives? "Alexa in your home is probably the closest sort of consumer experience or manifestation of AI in your life," she said. That comes with data questions, privacy questions, ethical questions and lots more.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editor at large. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Latest Stories