Hipster yap app chaps Slack finally strap into NYSE: Shares of 'WORK' open at $38.50 apiece

More like 'SHIRK' amirite

Slack logo

Messaging outfit Slack has finally done the deed and gone public with an initial valuation of at least $16bn.

The rumblings around a possible upending of a barrowload of shares onto the New York Stock Exchange by Slack were finally confirmed last night with the revealing of the symbol to be used for the loss-making company: WORK.

Some wags might think "SHIRK" would be better as the service has suffered the odd wobble or two and its users occasionally find themselves spending more time messaging than working.

The reference price for the Class A Common Stock was set at $26, although the NYSE was at pains to remind investors that the opening price was to be determined by buy and sell orders from broker dealers.

As it transpired, the opening price was $38.50, and at time of writing, it's stabilizing at $41.65 apiece. That is indeed a whole lot of beard wax. One could almost throw in a couple of pairs of sandals and a new sticker for the MacBook.

The don't-call-it-an-IPO approach of bypassing banking partners and going for a "direct listing" brings back memories of Spotify in 2018. Rather than an underwriter buying the shares and selling them on, the stock simply begins trading on the NYSE.

Subscriptions

In its filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Slack revealed that it had originally planned to list itself with the NYSE under the symbol "SK". It also said it had more than 88,000 paid customers, and 500,000 freeloaders organisations on the free subscription plan. 575 of those paid customers (each responsible for more than $100k in annual recurring revenue) accounted for 40 per cent of the company's revenues in FY 2019.

It's little surprise, therefore, to see the company continuing to burn through cash, although losses narrowed to $138.9m in FY 2019 on revenues of $400.6m. Growth last year was, however, a stonking 82 per cent.

Matt Stodolnic, VP of marketing for open-source competitor Mattermost, gave Slack kudos for "prepping financial analysts by releasing growth numbers" and while he told us that his company had no plans for an IPO, he did comment: "The better Slack does, the better Mattermost does."

Slack itself was unleashed back in 2013 and has garnered an enthusiastic following despite its vaguely creepy insistence on keeping user data in cloud servers under its control. If you'd rather have something more on-premises, then the likes of Mattermost would be happy to have a, er, chat. Still, with Slack claiming over 10 million active users, investors are unlikely to be concerned.

Slack has an interesting history. Founder Stewart Butterfield was one of the brains behind Flickr, and CTO Cal Henderson headed up the engineering team until the photo-sharing platform tumbled into the arms of Yahoo!. Henderson also set up the popular British site b3ta.com along with Rob Manuel and Denise Wilton.

We look forward to the next b3ta image challenge: "billionaire hipsters." ®

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