The 2020 calendar year will long be remembered as an annus horribilis for most, except for a handful of technology companies that reaped the rewards of a global shift to remote work with successful initial public offerings (IPOs).
US companies alone raised a record $435 billion in stock sales in 2020, with more than a quarter of that figure coming from IPOs. The vast majority of those new listings defined themselves as technology companies. Cloud-based software firms like Zoom, Snowflake, Asana, Airbnb, and Palantir all performed particularly well, and continue to see their stock price flourish as remote work and e-commerce continue to be the norm for many into 2021.
The question now is whether this trend will continue through the year. There are a host of companies eying an early debut in 2021 to take advantage of favourable conditions. But, as with all market debuts, timing will be everything, with a number of industry analysts increasingly warning of a bubble.
Here are the biggest technology IPOs of the year so far.
Software consultancy Thoughtworks had a strong IPO in September when shares rose 24% on its Nasdaq debut. The stock opened at $26, well above its expected range of $18 to $20, valuing the company at nearly $9 billion. Founded in Chicago in 1993, Thoughtworks was a contributor to the growing popularity of agile methodologies in software development thanks to employees like Martin Fowler and Jim Highsmith. It counts companies such as Kroger, Daimler, and PayPal as customers.
Identity software maker ForgeRock had a solid debut when it was listed on the New York Stock Exchange on Sept. 16, with shares rising by as much as 46%. The San Francisco-based company saw its shares listed at $25, which was above its expected range of $21 to $24, before closing at $36.50. That places the company’s value at just shy of $3 billion.
NoSQL database specialist Couchbase saw its stock price jump by as much as 39% on its July 22 market debut, valuing the company at more than $1 billion. Initially priced at $24 a share on the Nasdaq exchange, stock in the company jumped to $33.25 a share on its first day of trading, up 38.5%, before settling closer to $30 at the end of the day. Couchbase provides managed NoSQL database services and competes with the likes of Oracle and MongoDB, which had its own blockbuster IPO in 2017 and now boasts a market cap value of $23 billion.
UK fintech success story Wise floated on the London Stock Exchange on July 7 as a direct listing —meaning no new shares were sold — at a starting price of £8 ($11) per share before rising 10% to £8.88 during its first day of trading. That put the company’s value at £8 billion ($11 billion) \ making it the biggest ever tech float on the LSE. Founded by two Estonians and formerly known as TransferWise, the fintech firm is best known for its online international money transfer and cross border payments services.
Cybersecurity firm SentinelOne closed its June 30 debut on the New York Stock Exchange up 20% at $42.50 per share, well above its expected range of $31 to $32 per share — valuing the company at $10 billion. That far surpassed rival firm CrowdStrike’s blockbuster $6.7 billion debuts in 2019.
Founded in Israel and now based in California, SentinelOne specializes in endpoint security, using machine learning techniques to combat cyberattacks under its Singularity platform product. It competes with the likes of UK-based Darktrace, which also floated this year, and CrowdStrike. SentinelOne had raised $267 million on a $3.1 billion valuation just last November but still runs at a loss, posting a net loss of $64 million in the last quarter.
Confluent floated at $36 per share on June 23, well above its listing price range of $29 to $33 a share, valuing the company at $9 billion. The Mountain View, CA-based company provides customers with an enterprise version of the popular open-source Kafka streaming data platform. The technology is used by retailers, automotive makers, banks, and other enterprises to gain faster insights into their business than traditional “data at rest” analytical approaches, and by app developers as a way to power performant event-driven applications.
Customer experience software maker Sprinklr priced its shares at $16 at its IPO in June, below its target range of $18 to $20, valuing the company at $4 billion. Best known for its social media management, advertising, and content marketing tools, Sprinklr counts some of the biggest brands in the world as clients. It had revenues of $387 million for the latest financial year at a net loss of $41 million.
Israeli workplace management software maker Monday.com floated on the Nasdaq on June 10 at $155 a share, rising to $174 on the first day of trading. That puts the company value at $7.6 billion. The cloud-based platform allows companies to create customizable project management tools and competes with the likes of Trello and Asana, the latter of which had a market cap of $10 billion at the time of the IPO.
Online job search engine ZipRecruiter floated via a direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange in May, with the stock jumping 17% to $21 a share, valuing the company at $2.4 billion.
Website builder Squarespace floated on the New York Stock exchange via a direct listing in May, with the stock falling 13% on debut to $43.65 per share, valuing the company at $6.4 billion — well below expectations. Founded in 2003 by Anthony Casalena as a blog out of his University of Maryland dorm room, the website building and hosting firm is well known to podcast listeners everywhere as its ads became ubiquitous with the medium. The company has also been consistently profitable, pulling in a net income of $30.6 million in the last financial year.
The rumours were true. EQT, the Swedish-based private equity firm, spun out the Linux distributor SUSE in a May IPO on the Frankfurt exchange. The debut itself was fairly muted, with the stock climbing just above its €30 issue price, valuing the company at €5 billion ($6.1 billion).
Having established itself as an enterprise Linux specialist, SUSE has evolved with the times, now focusing on helping customers navigate the container era, a shift which culminated with the acquisition of Kubernetes specialist Rancher Labs in July 2020.
UK cybersecurity company Darktrace floated on the London Stock Exchange in April, with shares rising by as much as 43% to £3.58 on the first day of trading. That’s up from its guide price of £2.50, giving the company a value of around £2.4 billion. Founded in 2013 by a group of mathematicians and ex-Intelligence agents, the Cambridge-based firm uses machine learning techniques to analyze enterprise data to help detect and respond to cyber security threats. It generated revenue of almost $200 million in revenue in its latest financial year, running a small profit of $9 million.
UK-based Fintech company PensionBee successfully floated on the London Stock Exchange on April 21, pricing shares at £1.65, somewhere in the middle of its pre-IPO range of £1.55-£1.75. That put the company’s value at £365 million. The core PensionBee product allows customers to consolidate various pensions into a single plan, accessible through web and mobile apps.
UiPath closed its first day of trading on the New York Stock Exchange at $69 on April 21, up 23% from its guide price of $52-$54 and valuing the software company at $35.8 billion. The company last raised $750 million in Series F funding in February 2021, at a post-money valuation of $35 billion. UiPath specializes in Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software, which promises to do away with repetitive menial tasks to free up employee time. Customers include the likes of Cleveland Clinic, which used UiPath software to register patients attending COVID-19 testing sites and automatically print labels.
Coinbase, the company behind the popular cryptocurrency exchange, floated on the Nasdaq on April 14, with shares jumping by as much as 71% on debut, up from its reference price of $250. The stock closed its first day at $328.28, valuing the company at $85.8 billion; that’s more than double the market cap of Swiss mining giant Glencore or America’s oldest bank BNY Mellon. Coinbase opted for a direct listing instead of a traditional IPO, where no new shares are created and no underwriters are involved. Coinbase made $1.3 billion in revenue in its last financial year — up from $534 million the previous year — turning a profit of $322 million in 2020 after losing $30 million in 2019, according to a filing with US securities regulators.
Online learning platform Coursera debuted on the New York Stock Exchange on March 31, closing at $45 which was up 36% from its debut price, valuing the company at $5.9 billion. Founded in 2012 by former two computer science professors, Coursera has become a leader in online learning, a market that boomed during the COVID-19 pandemic.
DigitalOcean had a disappointing float on the New York Stock Exchange on March 24, with its stock sinking 9.6% on its first day. The New York-based cloud firm initially priced its IPO at $47, which was on the top end of the expected range of $44 to $47. It closed its first day at $42.50 a share, valuing the company at $4.5 billion. DigitalOcean promises a simple platform for software developers to quickly spin up and host applications in the cloud on virtual private servers (VPS).
Reviews website Trustpilot floated on the London Stock Exchange on March 23, where its stock surged by as much as 11% on debut, hitting £2.95 a share, up from its offer price of £2.65 ($3.65). That puts the company value at £1.1 billion. The Danish firm collates independent reviews for online businesses and counts as many as 120 million reviews by the end of 2020, for everything from utility providers to yoga studios. It makes money by selling subscriptions to businesses that want to engage with consumer reviews in their marketing campaigns.
Food-ordering software maker Olo raised $450 million in an initial public offering on March 17. The New York-based SaaS company sold 18 million shares at $25 each, above its pre-IPO range of $20 to $22, valuing the company at $3.55 billion. Olo software powers loyalty programs and allows restaurants to manage orders and menus and currently counts a range of US-based customers including Five Guys, California Pizza Kitchen, and The Cheesecake Factory.
Utah-based software company Qualtrics went public on Jan. 28, just two years after its $8 billion acquisition by German software giant SAP on the eve of its first planned IPO in 2018. Qualtrics initially priced its IPO at $30 per share, which was the top end of its expected range, before popping a massive 52% on its Nasdaq debut. It closed at $45.50 a share, valuing the firm at $27.3 billion. Qualtrics started life as an online survey software provider before growing into a platform for large companies like Disney, BMW and Adidas to collect a variety of “experience data” from employees and customers.