Lyft Leading Wave of Startups Debuting With Giant Losses
Comment of the Day

March 25 2019

Commentary by Eoin Treacy

Lyft Leading Wave of Startups Debuting With Giant Losses

This article by Eliot Brown for the Wall Street Journal may be of interest to subscribers. Here is a section:

“Many of their business models have not been tested fully,” Ilya Strebulaev, a Stanford University business professor who studies late-stage startups, said of the large private companies. “I would not be surprised if many of these companies would not be as successful as investors expect them to be.”

Of the five companies with the largest losses before an IPO, four of them—discount marketplace Groupon Inc., biotech Moderna Inc., social-media company Snap Inc. and communications company Vonage Corp. —have performed poorly on the public markets. A fifth, Viasystems Group Inc., went private years ago at a fraction of its IPO value.

For investors betting on the coming IPOs, the main appeal is rapid growth, which Lyft has made a centerpiece of its push to Wall Street. Its revenue doubled last year to $2.2 billion in what would be the third largest annual revenue of a U.S. startup pre-IPO, behind Facebook Inc. and Google, according to Capital IQ. Both Facebook and Google were profitable before their IPOs.

Lyft hasn’t publicly outlined when it hopes to turn a profit, but company executives and bankers point out that spending on high-cost items like marketing is falling as a percentage of revenue. It is also pushing to reduce insurance costs.

Eoin Treacy's view

There is nothing that signals late cycle activity quite like a slew of IPOs from companies that have little prospect of turning a profit.

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