Under the hood on Zoom’s IPO, with founder and CEO Eric Yuan

Extra Crunch offers members the opportunity to tune into conference calls led and moderated by the TechCrunch writers you read every day. This week, TechCrunch’s Kate Clark sat down with Eric Yuan, the founder and CEO of video communications startup Zoom, to go behind the curtain on the company’s recent IPO process and its path to the public markets.

Since hitting the trading desks just a few weeks ago, Zoom stock is up over 30%. But the Zoom’s path to becoming a Silicon Valley and Wall Street darling was anything but easy. Eric tells Kate how the company’s early focus on profitability, which is now helping drive the stock’s strong performance out of the gate, actually made it difficult to get VC money early on, and the company’s consistent focus on user experience led to organic growth across different customer bases.

Eric: I experienced the year 2000 dot com crash and the 2008 financial crisis, and it almost wiped out the company. I only got seed money from my friends, and also one or two VCs like AME Cloud Ventures and Qualcomm Ventures.

nd all other institutional VCs had no interest to invest in us. I was very paranoid and always thought “wow, we are not going to survive next week because we cannot raise the capital. And on the way, I thought we have to look into our own destiny. We wanted to be cash flow positive. We wanted to be profitable.

nd so by doing that, people thought I wasn’t as wise, because we’d probably be sacrificing growth, right? And a lot of other companies, they did very well and were not profitable because they focused on growth. And in the future they could be very, very profitable.

Eric and Kate also dive deeper into Zoom’s founding and Eric’s initial decision to leave WebEx to work on a better video communication solution. Eric also offers his take on what the future of video conferencing may look like in the next five to 10 years and gives advice to founders looking to build the next great company.

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Kate Clark: Well thanks for joining us Eric.

Eric Yuan: No problem, no problem.

Kate: Super excited to chat about Zoom’s historic IPO. Before we jump into questions, I’m just going to review some of the key events leading up to the IPO, just to give some context to any of the listeners on the call.

What Uber and Lyft’s investment bankers got right

Startup CEOs heading to the public markets have a love/hate relationship with their investment bankers. On one hand, they are helpful in introducing a company to a wide range of asset managers who will hopefully hold their company’s stock for the long term, reducing price volatility and by extension, employee churn.

On the other hand, they are flagrantly expensive, costing millions of dollars in underwriting fees and related expenses.

Worse, the advice one gets from investment bankers tends to be quite vague. There is all this talk of IPO windows, timing, pricing, and more that is so squishy, particularly for the sorts of Silicon Valley CEOs that prize data over human experience. That has led to more than one experiment to try to disrupt the investment banking sector and the whole going public circus.

Uber and Lyft though are proof though that investment bankers actually are pretty smart in their advice about the pubic markets, and founders should be cautious about ignoring their words.

Let’s look at a few case studies.

First, take the vaunted “IPO window” that is discussed ad nauseam among investment bankers and the financial press which covers them. The idea of the “window” is that you must time a new public equity issue to arrive at a propitious moment in the markets. You want investors who are hungry for growth, and not battening down the hatches preparing for a recession.

Uber had an abysmal second day of trading

It’s not looking great for ride-hailing giant Uber (NYSE: UBER). Today, Uber closed its second day of trading down more than 18.8 percent from its IPO price at $37.25 per share with a market cap of $62.2 billion.

Uber, which was previously valued at $72 billion by venture capitalists on the private market, priced its stock at $45 a share for an $82.4 billion valuation last week. On day one, Uber closed at $41.57 a share.

In a memo obtained by CNBC, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told employees today that, “like all periods of transition, there are ups and downs. Obviously, our stock did not trade as well as we had hoped post-IPO. Today is another tough day in the market, and I expect the same as it relates to our stock.”

Moving forward, Khosrowshahi urged employees to focus on the long-term. He also pointed to the comebacks both Facebook and Amazon made post-IPO.

Lyft has similarly suffered on the public market since its IPO in March. Lyft closed the day at $48.15 with a market cap of $13.8 billion.

The misunderstandings of 18-month-old Luckin’s $500m IPO

Luckin Coffee is the most energizing IPO in recent memory, and not just because it sells caffeine.

Most venture-backed startups can take a decade to reach the public markets. Luckin cut that time down to about 18 months. Founder Jenny Qian Zhiya opened a trial coffee shop in Beijing, with a focus on rapid coffee delivery and mobile app ordering. Fast forward to today, and the company’s 2,370 stores conducted nearly 17 million transactions in the most recent quarter ending March 31.

Now Luckin — which can barely offer year-over-year comparables — intends to list its American depository shares (ADSs) on Nasdaq in the coming weeks, hoping to raise over $500 million through the IPO.

Understanding and going long or short on this company requires that we drop the facile analogies (aka it’s Starbucks!), understand the context of startup growth in China, and take a (rare) bet on a high-flying growth company in the public markets.

The incredibly useless Starbucks analogy

Lonely Planet via Getty Images

There is nothing in the United States that compares to Luckin. But that hasn’t stopped journalists, financial analysts, and what I suspect is Luckin’s own PR folks from making the obvious coffee chain comparison.

Uber prices IPO at $45 per share, raises $8.1B

Uber has set its initial public offering at $45 per share, per reports, raising $8.1 billion in the process.

The price, which falls at the low end of Uber’s planned range, values Uber at $82.4 billion. Uber has yet to officially confirm its IPO price in an amended S-1 filing.

The pricing comes one day after drivers all over the world went on strike, with drivers in San Francisco protesting right outside the company’s headquarters.

Uber filed for its IPO last month, reporting 2018 revenues of $11.27 billion, net income of $997 million and adjusted EBITDA losses of $1.85 billion. Though, we knew this thanks to Uber’s previous disclosures of its financials.

But this is not the first time we’ve seen Uber’s financials. Over the last couple of years, Uber has willingly disclosed many of these numbers. Its last report as a private company came in February when Uber disclosed $3 billion in Q4 2018 revenue with rising operating losses.

From ridesharing specifically, Uber’s revenues increased from $3.5 billion in 2016 to $9.2 billion in 2018, with gross bookings hitting $41.5 billion last year from ridesharing products.

Competitor Lyft filed its S-1 documents in March, showing nearly $1 billion in 2018 losses and revenues of $2.1 billion. It reported $8.1 billion in booking, coverings 30.7 million riders and 1.9 million drivers. About a week later, Lyft set a range of $62 to $68 for its IPO, seeking to raise up to $2.1 billion. Since its debut on the NASDAQ, Lyft’s stock has suffered after skyrocketing nearly 10 percent on day one. Lyft is currently trading about 20 percent below its IPO.

Uber and Lyft drivers are striking ahead of Uber’s IPO

With Uber expected to make its debut on the public market by Friday, May 10, on-demand ride-hailing drivers are planning to strike on Wednesday. The New York Taxi Workers Association is calling on U.S.-based drivers to stand in solidarity with drivers in London and log off from both Uber and Lyft on May 8 between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m.

“In the IPO filing, Uber said drivers will only get more dissatisfied because they plan to cut our pay and stop incentives,” NYTWA member Sonam Lama said in a press release. “We don’t want our wages to stay just minimum. We want Uber to answer to us, not to investors. The gig economy is all about exploiting workers by taking away our rights. It has to stop. Uber is the worst actor in the gig economy.”

In San Francisco, drivers are organizing a protest at Uber’s HQ followed by a 12-hour app shutoff. In a statement to TechCrunch, an Uber spokesperson said drivers are at the core of its service.

“Drivers are at the heart of our service — we can’t succeed without them — and thousands of people come into work at Uber every day focused on how to make their experience better, on and off the road,” an Uber spokesperson said. “Whether it’s more consistent earnings, stronger insurance protections or fully funded four-year degrees for drivers or their families, we’ll continue working to improve the experience for and with drivers.” When Lyft went public, “it was a sad day,” Gig Workers Rising organizer Shona Clarkson told TechCrunch last month.

“It’s hard to see this company making tons of money when you have insecure housing or aren’t sure you can make rent or pay medical bills,” she said.

In response, Lyft drivers went on strike in San Francisco and San Diego. While some drivers want to be W-2 employees and others don’t mind being 1099 independent contractors, these drivers are united around wanting higher wages, transparent policies around wages, tips, fare breakdowns and mileage rates, benefits and a voice, Clarkson said.

“Lyft drivers’ hourly earnings have increased over the last two years, and they have earned more than $10 billion on the Lyft platform,” a Lyft spokesperson told TechCrunch. “Over 75% drive less than 10 hours a week to supplement their existing jobs. On average, Lyft drivers earn over $20 per hour. We know that access to flexible, extra income makes a big difference for millions of people, and we’re constantly working to improve how we can best serve our driver community.”

As part of their respective IPOs, both Uber and Lyft offered some drivers bonuses but pale in comparison to what executives will walk away with. Lyft, for example, offered some drivers up to a one-time bonus of $10,000. Similarly, Uber offered some drivers a bonus up to $40,000.

Drivers I know who were offered that deal from Lyft in the lead up to IPO were incredibly insulted and angry about it,” Clarkson said. “Both companies just do a lot of PR work to make it seem like they’re treating drivers well.”

Uber is pricing its IPO between $44 to $50 a share, seeking a valuation up to $84 billion. Lyft set a range of $62 to $68 for its IPO, seeking to raise up to $2.1 billion. Since its debut on the Nasdaq, Lyft’s stock has suffered after skyrocketing nearly 10% on day one. Lyft is currently trading at around $60 per share.

Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick may not be invited to ring opening bell

Despite Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick wanting to be part of the company going public, the company’s board is considering not letting Kalanick be there to ring the opening bell on May 10, Uber’s first day of trading, Axios reports. Kalanick also wants to bring his dad, The New York Times reports.

Additionally, Kalanick’s fellow co-founders Ryan Graves and Garrett Camp may not be allowed on the balcony to ring the bell.

Uber would not be where it is today without Kalanick, but him being there would surely be a reminder of Uber’s rocky past. Still, Benchmark partner Matt Cohler wants Kalanick and his co-founders to be there, according to Axios. Instead of joining Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi and other Uber executives on the balcony, Kalanick will only be able to be on the New York Stock Exchange floor with the company’s other board members.

Kalanick resigned from Uber in 2017 following pressure from shareholders to do so. That came shortly after Kalanick took a leave of absence following sexual harassment allegations from former Uber engineer Susan Fowler Rigetti.

I’ve reached out to Uber and will update this story if I hear back.

Uber will reportedly seek up to $90 billion valuation in IPO

Uber is reportedly looking to sell shares between $44 to $50, aiming to raise $8 to $10 billion in the offering. This would value the company between $80 billion to $90 billion, Bloomberg reports.

Previous reports had pegged Uber’s valuation at around $120 billion. Still, that valuation is higher than its last valuation of $76 billion following a funding round.

It’s likely this decrease in valuation is influenced by Lyft’s performance on the public market. Since its debut on the NASDAQ, Lyft’s stock has suffered after skyrocketing nearly 10 percent on day one.

While Uber has yet to officially set the terms of its IPO, the company is reportedly expected to do so as early as tomorrow. Even if Uber seeks the low-end of the expected range, it would be more than three time’s the amount of Lyft’s $2.34 billion IPO. It would also make Uber’s IPO the largest one in the U.S. since Alibaba’s in 2014.

In 2018, Uber reported 2018 revenues of $11.27 billion, net income of $997 million and adjusted EBITDA losses of $1.85 billion. Uber, which filed for its IPO two weeks ago, is expected to list on the New York Stock Exchange in May.

Zoom increases IPO price range ahead of Thursday listing

Zoom, the developer of video conferencing software, plans to list its shares on the Nasdaq under the ticker symbol “ZM” at between $33 and $35 apiece, per an updated S-1 filing. The company has also announced plans to sell $100 million in Class A shares to Salesforce Ventures at the initial public offering price.

The latest price range is a step up from Zoom’s earlier plans to charge between $28 and $32 per share.

Zoom plans to sell 9,911,434 shares of Class A common stock in the listing, expected Thursday. A midpoint price would secure Zoom about $337 million in new capital. If Zoom prices its shares at the top of the planned range, it’s poised to see an initial market cap of $9 billion, or a 9x increase to the $1 billion valuation it garnered with its latest private funding round.

The company, however, has been valued much higher on the secondary market since its $115 million Series D in 2017.

Zoom is backed by Emergence Capital, which owns a 12.2 percent pre-IPO stake; Sequoia Capital  (11.1 percent); Digital Mobile Venture, a fund affiliated with former Zoom board member Samuel Chen (8.5 percent),; and Bucantini Enterprises Limited (5.9 percent), a fund owned by Chinese billionaire Li Ka-shing.

The company is a rare breed of unicorn: A profitable one. That characteristic has likely fueled demand for its IPO, especially as several other unprofitable unicorns transition to the public markets.

Zoom, which has raised a total of $145 million to date, posted $330 million in revenue in the year ending January 31, 2019, a remarkable 2x increase year-over-year, with a gross profit of $269.5 million. The company similarly more than doubled revenues from 2017 to 2018, wrapping fiscal year 2017 with $60.8 million in revenue and 2018 with $151.5 million.

The company’s losses are shrinking, from $14 million in 2017, $8.2 million in 2018 and just $7.5 million in the year ending January 2019.

The company will list its shares on Thursday, the same day “PINS,” another high-profile stock, will begin trading.

CEO Jennifer Tejada just took PagerDuty public; we talked now about the roadshow, the IPO, and what comes next

PagerDuty debuted on the New York Stock Exchange today, and as we type, shares of the nine-year-old, San Francisco-based incident response software company are trading at nearly $39.

That’s up more than 60 percent above their IPO range of $24 per share, which was itself adjusted from the range of $21 to $23 that had been expected earlier and gives the company a valuation of close to $3 billion. That’s an awful lot for a company whose software helps technical teams at 11,000 companies spot problems with applications and respond to incidents. Though it’s growing quickly — revenue was up 48 percent last year  — it still pulled in just $117.8 million in 2018. Meanwhile, its net loss widened last year to $40.7 million from $38.1 million in 2017.

Certainly, its performance has to make the company’s investors —  who last assigned the company a valuation of $1.3 billion back in September — very happy. Some of the VCs poised to win big if PagerDuty’s shares continue flying high include Andreessen Horowitz, which owned 18.4 percent of PagerDuty’s shares sailing into the IPO; Accel, which owned 12.3 recent; and Bessemer, which owned 12.2 percent. Other winners include Baseline Ventures (6.7 percent) and Harrison Metal (5.3 percent).

It’s also exciting for CEO Jennifer Tejada, a proven operator who was brought in to lead PagerDuty in 2016 and now becomes part of a small — but growing — club of women CEOs to take their tech companies public, including Katrina Lake of Stitch Fix and Julia Hartz of Eventbrite.

We talked with Tejada earlier today about the company’s big day. In addition to crediting company cofounders (and shareholders) Andrew Miklas and Baskar Puvanathasan, both of whom have since left the company, Tejada thanked PagerDuty cofounder Alex Solomon, who remains the company’s CTO. She also told us a little bit about what today has been like and how the IPO changes things — and doesn’t. Our chat has been edited for length.

TC: First and foremost, how are you feeling?

JT: It’s been an incredible day. It’s been an incredible several months. You have to enjoy it when it’s going well.

TC: How does the vision for the company change now that it’s public? Have you been thinking ahead to possible acquisitions?

JT:  The vision doesn’t change. We intend to do exactly what we’ve been doing, which is to provide the best real-time operations platform available to companies as they undergo digital transformation to meet the growing demands of their customers. We think we’re [facing] an early and very large opportunity that will be available to us for a long time. So our job continues to be to build great products, stay close to our customers, expand regionally, and continue doing what has allowed us to be a successful private company.

TC: You and I had talked about the challenges of retaining employees in San Francisco when we sat down together in November. It’s a battle for every local company. How do you keep employees beyond the lock-up period?  How do you ensure they stay focused on performance and not your share price?

JT: I think that mindset of, ‘It’s all over when you go public,’ is kind of a Silicon Valley fable. If you look at the most successful SaaS companies on the planet, they’ve gained 10x, 20x, 30x their value post their IPO. I also think what employees look for ahead of their financial success is career success. Am I being developed and recognized and can I build my career at this company? And we’ve worked really hard to create those career opportunities for our employees who [I think see, as I do] the IPO like a racing boat pushing off the dock, across the starting line, and into the open ocean, where the next adventure awaits.

In the meantime, we’ve already lessened our reliance on [overheated job markets] by opening offices in Toronto and Atlanta and Seattle and London and Sydney, even while we’re still hiring in San Francisco and Seattle.

TC: Obviously, Lyft’s shares have been up and down, owing to short sellers. Have you been monitoring short interest? Are you at all concerned about investors driving the price sky high, then selling it on the way down?

JT: I haven’t even looked at the stock price in the last several hours .  .  . There are a lot of things outside of my control, and the free market is one of them.

TC: PagerDuty is rare in that is doesn’t have a dual-class structure, when can greatly empower leaders over everyone else associated with a company. Presumably, this is a great relief to your investors;  I just wonder whether it was ever a consideration.

JT: I’m a little bit of a traditionalist. I’ve been around long enough to know how checks and balances work, and a single-class structure made sense for PagerDuty. Also, dual-class structures tend to emerge more when you have deeply involved founders, and though Alex is still very much a part of the business, PagerDuty’s other two founders have worked outside of the business for some time.

TC: You have plenty of operating experience, including previously running Keynote Systems, but you’ve never taken a company public. Were there ways in which you found the roadshow experience surprising?

JT: I was surprised by how fun it was! [Laughs.] When you have a great story, and a great partner helping you tell it —  in my case that’s [PagerDuty CFO] Howard Wilson, who I’ve worked with for 10 years- – it’s great. We had a great reception from investors. I loved our IPO team;  our [top bank underwriting teams] were both led by women and whenever I had a question, they [had the answer]. I also had this cocoon of experience surrounding me thanks to our board.  If anyone tells you that [in this position] they are super comfortable, they’re either lying or [clueless] but I was very lucky. I also have a whole bunch of buddies who are CEOs [and other executives] in SaaS and I’ve been shaking them down for advice for months so I felt well-prepared.

TC: What was some of the advice you received from those friends about how your life is about to change?

JT:  Some of it was about the need to keep people focused and not get distracted, to remind everyone that this is a milestone, not the goal. [Some centered on] surrounding yourself with a great team and the importance of great investor relations, a function you don’t have as a private company but that can create huge value and provide support and understanding of the market.

One CEO said to just make sure you keep having fun, to try and stay “you,” to find joy in the same things as before.  There will be stressful moments and tough questions — that’s true of any company that scaling —  but I heard a lot of advice about just taking care of myself, including on the roadshow. In fact, there were a lot of really supportive notes and private tweets that, in a job that can feel lonely, made me feel not alone, and I’m very appreciative of that.

TC: People calls IPOs just another funding event, but that’s kind of baloney, isn’t it?  If you had to list the most meaningful moments in your life on a scale from 1 to 10,  1 being the most important, where might today fall? Would today be up there on that list?

JT: When I think of most meaningful moments, I think of the day my daughter was born, and my wedding. Another day that was very meaningful to me was when I approved our pledge to donate one percent [of PagerDuty’s equity, one percent of its product, and one percent of employees’ time] to social impact.  We did it a lot later in the game than some companies; our equity was already valuable. But we knew that it was going to create meaningful impact over time.

But yes, it is a gratifying day, especially for the cofounders who were pulling the idea together for PagerDuty a couple of years before they even launched it, and for employees who’ve been with the company for nearly as long and who turned down safer and higher-paying jobs along the way. Seeing their joy today — that is a memory that will be in my top 10 for sure.