Slack going public in a red-hot IPO market, with a twist

slack logo Workplace-messaging firm Slack is about to go public in a red-hot IPO market, but it’s approach to going public — using a “direct listing” — is slightly different than an IPO.

The “direct listing” method revives some of the same issues and anxieties that came up when Spotify went public using the same method.

But the world is a lot different than when Spotify went public on April 3, 2018.

Direct listings allow a company to go public without involving underwriters — those intermediaries who buy shares from the company or insiders and then sell them to the public. Instead, the shares simply begin trading on an exchange, in this case the NYSE.

Spotify was the first large company to use a direct listing. The worry at that time was simple: direct listings were an untested way to go public. There were two concerns: 1) because direct listings do not have an initial price that is sold to investors, it was not clear where the stock would open, and 2) In a direct listing, most of the shares are immediately available for trading (in Spotify’s case, about 96%).

There was effectively no lock-up period. The fear was that insiders would dump the stock en masse on the first day, leading to chaos.

Reference price

Neither concern proved to be a major issue. Instead of an initial price that underwriters set to sell stock, Spotify and its advisors set a “reference price” of $132 that was roughly based on recent private trades. Spotify opened at $165.90 and closed at $149 on its first day of trading, up about 12 percent.

Fast forward to Slack, and those anxieties are much less evident. The NYSE has set a “reference price” of $26, based roughly on the price of private trades over the last few months (it has traded privately in a range of $25.75-$31.50).

As for the amount of shares available to trade, Renaissance Capital, which runs the Renaissance Capital IPO ETF (IPO), a basket of roughly the last 60 large IPOs, estimates that 283 million of the 599 million shares outstanding will be available to trade (47%).

Why isn’t the entire share count available to trade? Slack is restricting sales for those who bought private shares less than a year ago, and anyone who is an officer, director, or significant holder of the company.

A bigger concern is who might–or might not–be selling. The six largest shareholders (Accel, Andreessen Horowitz, Social Capital, CEO Stewart Butterfield, Softbank, and co-founder Cal Henderson) control about 60% of the stock. Some are restricted, but if the majority who are not decide to sit on their shares, supply/demand could be out of whack and the stock could be much more volatile.

As for the IPO environment, it’s hard to envision a more perfect scenario. Investors have been eager to snap up any companies that show signs of growth this year, including those that are losing money:

Recent IPOs

(from initial price)

The two laggards — Uber (down 3%), and Lyft (down 11%), are in a space–ride-hailing — that investors believe may have a very hard time becoming profitable any time in the future.


Slack does have high growth with recurring revenues, but it also has plenty of negatives: trading at roughly 34 times trailing revenues, losing money, and with a very low barrier to entry.

A bigger concern may be that growth is decelerating: “2Q and FY20 revenue and billings guidance does suggest a meaningful deceleration from current levels,” DA Davidson analyst Rishi N. Jaluria wrote in a recent report, noting that first quarter revenue growth fell to 67% year-over-year from 78%.

The biggest concern, though, may be its size: depending on the price, almost $8 billion in stock could theoretically be available to trade. That is an awful lot for even a bull IPO market to absorb. By comparison, Uber was an $8 billion IPO.

“Big IPOs are harder to get elegantly into the market,” Kathleeen Smith from Renaissance Capital told me.

The hope is that Slack will trade better long-term than Spotify, which is trading at $146, below the $149 price it closed at on its first day of trading in April, 2018.

More articles on Slack’s IPO:

IPO Readiness Workshop: Philadelphia


Thursday, June 27 | 11:30 a.m.–1:30 p.m.
The Pyramid Club
1735 Market Street, 52nd Floor, Philadelphia

Join us for an exclusive IPO workshop featuring panelists from Duane Morris, Nasdaq, and PwC. This is your chance to hear from experts who have led issuers through some of the most recent high-profile IPOs.

Built specifically for executives at emerging growth companies, panelists will discuss how they approach common IPO challenges, what to consider given the current state of the market, infrastructure planning and execution advice, and lessons learned from their deal experiences.

The following panelists will provide insight through a 21st century lens:

  • Darrick Mix, Partner, Duane Morris LLP
  • Jordan Saxe, Senior Managing Director, Nasdaq
  • Mike Gould, Deals Partner and IPO Services Senior Partner, PwC

After this workshop, attendees will be able to:

  • Organize operational details in preparation for the IPO, including JOBS Act considerations
  • Identify technology and processes that scale to organizational needs
  • Adapt plans to address the current regulatory environment and finance trends

Workiva offers one complimentary CPE credit for this workshop.


Workiva Named One of the Best Large Workplaces in Chicago by Great Place to Work and FORTUNE

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CHICAGO – May 21, 2019Workiva (NYSE:WK), the leading cloud provider of connected data, reporting and compliance solutions, today announces that it has been ranked #18 of the 30 Best Large Workplaces in Chicago by Great Place to Work® and FORTUNE.

“Our company is based on core principles of integrity, trust and respect, and we value all backgrounds and perspectives,” said Marty Vanderploeg, CEO of Workiva. “We give our employees the freedom and resources they need – backed by our culture of collaboration, innovation and diverse thought – to keep breaking new ground.”

To determine the Best Workplaces in Chicago, Great Place to Work® analyzed responses from nearly 850,000 employees in the Chicago area at Great Place to Work-Certified™ organizations. Employees anonymously rated their employers on more than 60 survey questions.

“The companies featured on the 2019 Best Workplaces in Chicago list offer dynamic, flexible, and transparent workplaces,” said Michael C. Bush, CEO of Great Place to Work. “These companies create cultures that invite all employees creating a competitive edge to their business and helping to realize the unique potential of each individual.”

The Best Workplaces in Chicago list is one of a series of rankings by Great Place to Work and FORTUNE based on employee feedback from Great Place to Work-Certified™ organizations.

Earlier this year, Workiva was named one of the 2019 FORTUNE 100 Best Companies to Work For® and Best Workplaces in Technology. This is the tenth award for Workiva from FORTUNE magazine.

Read full press release here >>

Workiva Named Best-In-Class Cloud Service Provider at UK Cloud Awards

LONDON – May 17, 2019Workiva (NYSE:WK), the leading cloud provider of connected data, reporting and compliance solutions, was named the Best-In-Class Cloud Service Provider by the UK Cloud Awards 2019 at a ceremony here last night.

Now in its sixth year, the UK Cloud Awards recognise innovation and excellence in the cloud industry by showcasing leading companies, customers and individuals in the United Kingdom.

Workiva was recognised for its Wdesk platform that helps organisations consolidate, connect and tag their data in a single, cloud environment so they are able to reduce risk and save time when filing reports with various regulators and other stakeholders.

Workiva, the global leader in XBRL and Inline XBRL, is also streamlining how customers comply with the European Securities and Markets Authority’s mandate for Inline XBRL for European Single Electronic Format (ESEF) reporting. More than 5,000 EU issuers will be required to use ESEF taxonomy for their annual financial reports, ending on or after January 1, 2020.

Multinational companies are also using Wdesk to improve efficiency and transparency in global statutory reporting, which is a complex process for reporting information to government agencies in compliance with each jurisdiction’s local GAAP requirements.

“We are honored to be recognised by the UK Cloud Awards,” said Marty Vanderploeg, CEO of Workiva. “Wdesk is the only cloud platform that provides data assurance throughout the entire reporting process — from ERP transactional data to final reports. We will continue to be a driving force in transforming financial reporting throughout the world.”

Workiva also recently won a DevOps Excellence Award by Computing in London.

A full list of the UK Cloud Awards 2019 can be found here.

Read full press release here >>

SEC Professionals Group: A Look Inside the Monthly Financial Close Process at the World’s Largest Company

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Walmart Inc. (NYSE: WMT) is widely admired for its operational efficiency, which extends to every corner of the company, including corporate accounting. In advance of the SEC Professionals Group Q2 meeting we sat down with Walmart’s financial consolidation leadership team to learn more about the monthly financial close process at the world’s largest company.

Kristi Brown, Senior Director of Reporting, Consolidation and Corporate Accounting, leads three teams: financial consolidation, internal and external reporting, and corporate accounting.

Heather Trana, Director of Global Close and Consolidation, is responsible for the review and consolidation of financial results for Walmart which operates in 27 countries around the globe. Her Bentonville-based team includes seven associates who support the global close process.

By leveraging technology, automating manual processes and redesigning the financial consolidation team structure, the Walmart team has reduced its monthly consolidated financial close by several days. In addition to gaining process efficiency, they are creating value through additional metrics and analytics that provide insights for their strategic partners in the company.

“Our close is complicated,” said Heather Trana. Walmart U.S. and Canada locations close on a fiscal year schedule that ends January 31, which is typical in the retail industry. The rest of the company’s locations around the world close on an annual calendar schedule.

“This is one of the challenges of our business” she said. “Essentially, we’re managing two financial close processes simultaneously. We’re managing a fiscal close at the same time we’re closing the next period for the international markets.”

The Walmart team has leveraged technology and data automation tools to standardize and streamline the review of financial results that have been submitted across the business segments and markets.

Individual Walmart markets maintain their own general close ledgers. During the month-end close, the markets synchronize their financial statements through an interface to an enterprise financial consolidation tool.

The consolidation software automates certain balance sheet roll-forwards that generate a mostly automated cash flow preparation process. Additionally, automated consolidation rules generate standard U.S. dollar balance sheet and income statement reporting.

Walmart also uses Wdesk to capture a wide range of unstructured financial and performance data from across business segments and markets that is required for financial reporting and disclosure in the 10Q and 10K. This information is captured, collected, maintained and updated from quarter to quarter within Wdesk.

“Our goal is to meet our deadlines for submitting reviewed and final financial statements,” said Kristi Brown. “Those deadlines are accelerating because of the demands of the business and the needs of our executive team.”

The financial statement consolidation process requires the team in Bentonville to coordinate with multiple partners in the company. Walmart recently outsourced a large portion of its shared service center, adding another point of interaction to the process. The team coordinates between internal and external partners, and between U.S. and international operations.

To meet month-end financial close goals all users have access to the enterprise consolidation tool and authorized users have access to Wdesk.

“We have given all the participants in the financial close the right tools to submit the right results the first time. We want to avoid making revisions or adjustments here in Bentonville based on reviews made by the consolidation team,” Kristi said.

The consolidation team also closely monitors the close process for system issues. During the consolidation process, the team may schedule calls twice a day to make sure there are no systems issues in the underlying ERP systems or in the consolidation software that could generate the need for manual work that would threaten the close deadline.

The consolidation team tracks numerous processes and activities that measure the efficiency and effectiveness of the financial close process. “We formally assess our progress and share this information with our leadership,” said Heather.

Among the functions tracked are the performance of technical systems and software tools during each consolidation period.

While Walmart has leveraged technology and data automation tools to standardize and streamline the review of financial results, they also redesigned the consolidation team structure. Today, individuals focus their review of functional areas across all financial statements compared to a review of complete set financial statements for a few markets, which was the past practice. For example, one individual reviews cash flow across all markets to produce the consolidated results of that functional area. The benefit has been a more efficient and consistent review process.

“In addition to efficiency gains, reviewers have become subject matter experts in their functional area,” said Heather. “With deep knowledge and context about a functional area, the consolidation team can create value with additional analytics about KPIs and key business insights for our strategic partners in the company.”

Walmart’s consolidation team has become proficient at balancing an agile focus with a high quality close each month.

“We are constantly adapting our solutions to the changing needs of the business,” said Heather. “Communication is key to leading people through constant change.”

As leaders, Heather and Kristi are committed to inspiring their team and getting people excited about the future. “When you’re changing the nature of a person’s job the challenge is to communicate a vision of what an effective, efficient financial close looks like,” said Heather.

In her communication with the consolidation team Heather emphasizes the personal benefits that technology and process create. “I emphasize their opportunity to make an impact on the organization,” she said.

Looking into her crystal ball, Kristi told us what skills will likely be required of corporate accountants at Walmart in 2025.

She thinks that given how fast the retail environment is changing, accountants will need to be comfortable working in an agile environment and must adapt quickly to change. People will also need the ability to use technology related skills.

“In 2025, this work will require skills sets that are forward thinking,” she said. “The consolidation team will be much more focused on providing quality insights into the data we’re generating.”

A process-focused mindset will be a valuable skill as Walmart continues to reduce manual work and moves toward financial reporting that is seamless.

“We probably will need to hire at least some people with skills sets other than accounting,” she said. “People with process engineering and data analytics skills would make great additions to the consolidation team.”

Read original article here >>