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直接上市在硅谷風行,為什么風投拋棄IPO而移情直接上市?

Michal Lev-Ram 2019年10月13日

IPO盡管是亞馬遜、Facebook、微軟等幾乎所有大型科技公司上市融資的方式,但其實它已經過時而且低效。

風險資本家比爾·格利拿著粗粗的黑筆,在他打印出來的消息里圈出了“愚蠢”一詞。最新報道評論內容是創業公司上市的傳統過程,即首次公開募股(IPO)。報道認為,IPO盡管是亞馬遜、Facebook、微軟等幾乎所有大型科技公司上市融資的方式,但它已經過時且低效,投資銀行業沒有做到與時俱進實在愚蠢。

不過格利并不是這篇文章強烈批評的對象。文中認為“愚蠢”的是音樂流媒體服務Spotify的首席財務官巴里·麥卡錫。

作為 Benchmark公司的科技行業知名投資人,格利確實可能會說出這個詞,還有可能親自撰文批判。他向來大力支持所謂的直接上市,也是IPO 的另一選擇,近來直接上市在硅谷日漸流行。

傳統的IPO當中,銀行家們要花數周時間(并賺取高額費用)等大型機構投資者紛紛買入股票。新上市的公司熱熱鬧鬧地宣傳一番,還有大筆現金注入以促進增長。

但如今許多擁有私人資本的初創企業并不需要現金,主要想尋找有效的方式讓早期投資者出售部分股份。

直接上市時,公司不會發行新股,也不用募集額外資金。而是股東直接向公眾出售現有股票,過程中投行僅充當顧問,而不是承銷商。

Venture capitalist Bill Gurley uses a fat black pen to circle the word “moronic” in a news story he has printed out. The recent article is a critique of the traditional process that startups use to go public: an initial public offering. It argues that IPOs—the path to Wall Street riches for nearly all big tech companies, including Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft—are outdated and inefficient and that the investment banking industry’s inability to evolve is, yes, moronic.

In this particular case, Gurley wasn’t the one who used that strong adjective. The article attributes the word “moronic” to Barry McCarthy, chief financial officer of music-streaming service Spotify.

But Gurley, a well-known tech investor at Benchmark, might as well have uttered it—and written the whole manifesto himself. He’s one of the loudest proponents of so-called direct listings, an alternative to the IPO that’s gaining momentum in Silicon Valley.

In traditional IPOs, bankers spend weeks (and earn hefty fees) lining up big institutional investors to buy shares. The newly public company gets the publicity of a splashy launch, and a large infusion of cash to boost growth.

But many of today’s startups, rich already with private capital, don’t need cash—they’re primarily looking for an efficient way for early investors to sell some of their stakes.

In a direct listing, a company doesn’t issue any new stock and therefore doesn’t raise additional money. Instead, shareholders sell existing stock directly to the public, leaving investment banks to serve merely as advisers in the process and not underwriters.

風險資本家的好處非常明顯,直接上市的公司不必向投行支付數千萬美元的手續費。只用支付咨詢費,金額往往少得多。

此外,由于不用發行額外的股票,對現有投資者的稀釋作用較小。在傳統IPO中,“餡餅”變大,意味著風投之類的早期股東在公司里所占的股份比例會縮小。

此外,在直接上市后幾個月,內部人便可以自由出售股票,因為跟IPO不同,直接上市沒有“鎖定期”。

格利等風險投資家還提出了另一益處:打破現狀。“我們遵循固有流程已經太長時間了。”格利說,他是Uber和房地產網站Zillow的早期投資者,還投過其他一些顛覆傳統產業的初創公司。

到目前為止,在美國只有兩起知名的直接上市案例,2018年4月總部位于瑞典的Spotify在紐約證券交易所直接上市,企業通訊服務軟件Slack緊隨其后,今年6月上市。格利曾經在華爾街擔任股票分析師,跟他類似的風投從業者希望有更多的公司跟上。

“他就是這些風潮的幕后推手。”風險投資公司Kleiner Perkins的合伙人馬莫恩·哈米德說。“比爾之前是銀行家,在風險投資和公開市場方面卻是學生。我認為顛覆銀行業就像他的使命。”

如果說身高6英尺9寸的格利是幕后推手,那么他背后財大氣粗的智囊團不僅有哈米德,還包括紅杉、安德森·霍洛維茨和Greylock等頂級風投的投資人。就在今年6月Slack直接上市幾周后,幾位頂級風投資本家聚集在加州門洛帕克的Kleiner Perkins豪華的沙丘路辦事處,討論直接上市事宜。“在我看來,這是史無前例的。”格利談起競爭激烈的風投行業在直接上市問題上聯合起來時表示。

下一步計劃,則是今年秋天晚些時候與一些最有前景的初創企業創始人召開峰會。

格利說,支付平臺Stripe的創始人愛爾蘭企業家兄弟約翰和帕特里克·科里森已經對直接上市表示興趣,項目管理軟件提供商Asana的首席執行官達斯汀·莫斯科維茨也一樣。(兩家公司均拒絕置評。)據傳愛彼迎(Airbnb)也在考慮。

Slack其實資本雄厚,資產負債表上的資產超過8億美元,上市放棄融資沒有問題。但對直接上市興趣不大的投資銀行表示,許多公司仍然會選擇IPO。

《財富》雜志與四位投資銀行家就直接上市的問題聊了聊,考慮過該問題的敏感性,他們只愿身處幕后提供信息。一致意見怎樣?雖然他們表示投資銀行也喜歡直接上市,但并不適合每家公司。

一位銀行家把上市比作生孩子的不同方式。“可以自然分娩,也可以剖腹產,不過如今我已經想不起孩子是怎么生出來的,只關心現在狀況怎樣。”他說。

歸根結底,雖然投資銀行家通過直接上市也能賺錢(也有一些好處,比如沒有鎖定期),但熱情沒有風投足。原因很簡單:參與其中的銀行數量減少,即便能夠幸運參與的幾家銀行賺的錢也更少。

長遠來看,或許直接上市能切實推動更多公司上市或加快上市步伐,對相關風投、創始人、投資銀行家和其他股東都有好處。正如紐約證券交易所的副主席兼首席商務官約翰·塔特爾所說:“在私人資本遍地,人們也不太談論公司上市有什么好處的當下,這是公司進入市場的另一種途徑。”(財富中文網)

本文另一版本登載于《財富》雜志2019年10月刊,標題為《風投鐘情于直接上市》。

譯者:馮豐

審校:夏林

The benefits to venture capitalists are obvious: Companies undertaking direct listings don’t have to pay banks tens of millions of dollars in under?writing fees. They have to pay advisory fees only, which tend to be significantly less.

Furthermore, because no additional stock is made available, there’s less dilution for existing investors. In a traditional IPO, the “pie” becomes bigger, which means that early stockholders like VCs end up owning a smaller percentage of the overall company.

What’s more, insiders are free to sell their shares in the months after a direct listing because, ?unlike with IPOs, there is no “lockup period.”

Venture capitalists like Gurley bring up yet another benefit: disrupting the status quo. “We’ve been stuck with the old process for a long, long time,” says Gurley, an early investor in Uber and real estate site Zillow, among other startups that have upended traditional industries.

So far, there have been only two notable direct listings in the U.S. Sweden-based Spotify went public via a direct listing on the New York Stock Exchange in April 2018, and workplace messaging service Slack followed suit this June. VCs like Gurley, a former Wall Street stock analyst, hope many more companies will follow suit.

“He is the godfather of all this,” says Mamoon Hamid, a partner at venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins. “Bill, being a former banker, is a student of this stuff—of venture capital and of public markets. I think this is kind of his calling, bringing disruption to banking.”

If 6-foot-9 Gurley is the godfather, his deep-pocketed consiglieri include not just Hamid but also investors from top venture capital firms like Sequoia, Andreessen Horowitz, and Greylock. Just a few weeks after Slack’s direct listing in June, a handful of top venture capitalists gathered at Kleiner Perkins’s swank Sand Hill Road offices in Menlo Park, Calif., to discuss direct listings. “It’s unprecedented from my standpoint,” Gurley says about how the highly competitive venture capital industry has banded together over direct listings.

The next step planned in the campaign is a summit later this fall with the founders of some of the most promising startups.

Already, Gurley says, the founders of payments platform Stripe, Irish entrepreneurs and brothers John and Patrick Collison, are interested in a direct listing, as is Dustin Moskovitz, CEO of project-management software provider Asana. (Both companies declined to comment.) Airbnb is also rumored to be looking at this option.

Well-capitalized companies like Slack, which had more than $800 million on its balance sheet, can afford to forgo raising money when going public. But investment banks, which tend to be a bit less messianic about direct listings, say that many companies will still prefer IPOs.

Fortune talked with four investment bankers about direct listings, but in a sign of the sensitivity about the topic, they would speak only on background. The consensus? While they say investment banks like direct listings, they don’t think they’re a good option for every company.

One banker likened the path to going public to the different ways you can give birth to a baby. “You can have natural birth, and you can have a cesarean, but today I don’t really think about how my kids were born—I think about how they’re doing now,” he says.

The bottom line is that while investment bankers can still make money via direct listings (there are some benefits to them, too, like the lack of a lockup period), they’re not as enthusiastic as VCs. It’s simple to understand why: Fewer banks will be involved, and those lucky few that are will make less money.

But longer term, perhaps direct listings will actually be a catalyst for more companies to go public, or to go public faster, which could have benefits for all involved—VCs, founders, investment bankers, and other shareholders. As John Tuttle, vice chairman and chief commercial officer of NYSE, puts it: “In a world awash with private capital and people not necessarily talking about the benefits of being a public company, this is one more avenue companies have to come to market.”

A version of this article appears in the October 2019 issue of Fortune with the headline “VCs Can’t Get Enough of Direct Listings.”

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