Blue Apron Holdings Inc., a startup that offers cook-at-home preparation kits, expects shares to price between $15 and $17 in its initial public offering.
The New York company, which was valued at roughly $2 billion as of 2015 in a $135 million private-capital round, said in a Securities and Exchange Commission filing Monday that it will sell some 30 million shares at that price range. If underwriters exercise options to buy 4.5 million additional shares, the IPO could generate as much as $586.5 million.
But even with people saying that this thing is maybe worth just over a quarter of what they thought it was worth two years ago, Blue Apron might still be shooting for the moon. Before last Friday, we thought that Blue Apron's biggest existential threat was Amazon getting serious about food delivery.
With Amazon now casting an anticipatory shadow over the "Fresh food to urban yuppie home delivery" sector, Blue Apron is caught in a really gnarly Catch 22. Its IPO only makes sense if people believe that its business model can drive revenue and maybe create profit, but if that model can indeed drive revenue, what's to stop Amazon from copying it using 80 million Prime subscribers and the vast coverage of Whole Foods distribution network? Especially since Amazon has an almost heretically long-term dogma when it comes to revenue turning into profit.
If you're a canny investor who thinks Blue Apron might actually be onto something, Friday's announcement has got to make you thing of taking all your belief in Blue Apron and turning into a buy order...on Amazon stock.
The only counterargument would be that you think Amazon stock is too expensive at $1,ooo/share (plebe!) and are intrigued by taking a flyer on Blue Apron on the off-chance that The New Grocery Order results in a panic move by Kroger, Target or an increasingly desperate Wal-Mart. Should Blue Apron end up in a reverse merger with Wal-Mart, a reality that would send another SoHo-based NYC hipster startup to Arkansas, APRN stock could pop just enough to eke out a nice little return. So, congrats?
But then again, newly-installed Wal-Mart eCommerce CEO Marc Lore can't save every Silicon Alley tech retail unicorn from Jeff Bezos. And it stands to reason that he would let Blue Apron be a canary in the coal mine, allowing him to see just how desperate future acquisition targets will be to escape life as a day trade stock, slumping towards oblivion as Amazon eats your fucking lunch by "Experimenting."
What happens to Blue Apron from here on out is going to be a super-strong indicator of what we can expect from Casper (which is already making noise) and Warby Parker. Both are good examples of high-valuation startups flirting with the notion of getting themselves a fancy new ticker symbol, and both are arguably in a way better position than Blue Apron to do so. But with Amazon and Wal-Mart play-acting this bizarre eRetail Cold War, what's the harm in taking a step back and playing coy?
We maintain our view that the Blue Apron IPO is rather dumb but we have to admit that it will also be an inflection point for the cottage industry of NYC tech retail startups. And, while it won't please the people behind Blue Apron, that's not technically nothing.