Slack is going public!
You know what Slack is, right? No? Well, don't expect JPMorgan i-bankers to kick down your office door and start pitching it, because Slack is apparently not going to waste money on that IPO bullshit...
Slack Technologies Inc. is planning to go public through a direct listing, according to people familiar with the matter, potentially making it the second big technology company after Spotify Technology SA to bypass a traditional IPO.
Slack, which operates a popular workplace instant-messaging and collaboration app, is likely to debut in the second quarter, the people said. The company currently expects to do so via a direct listing, though its plans could change, they said.
That's right, an app built to promote collaboration is going public by itself. And while the irony is thick, the logic is also quite sound.
As we've bitched and bemused here quite a few times, the modern mega-IPO is dumb. Taking your company public has become an exercise in how well investment banks can market a deeply flawed but vaguely promising company to investors who are somehow so eager to believe that they go along with a valuation that suits only the underwriters [see : Etsy, Snap, Blue Apron, et al].
The people who need to know what Slack is already know what it is and the company has thrown some money at advertising to make sure that some who don't are aware that it's a thing. Taking into account how existentially risky an IPO is in this era, and looking at the volatility in markets that seems poised to continue on and off into much of 2019, Slack is already showing itself to be smarter than most of its predecessors by eschewing the fees it would pay to Goldman Sachs and JPM to market a product that really doesn't need marketing.
In terms of precedent, many will point you to the Spotify direct listing that went down last spring. SPOT has been hit hard by market conditions and a more realistic assessment of its value, but we could easily argue that fall-off would have been even more precipitous if a slick VP at Goldman Sachs had sold it as something it wasn't, ie profitable or ready to be public.
We're not sure what Slack is really worth or if it's ready for a ticker symbol [we would suggest WERK] but we would guess that it's probably worth less than what the banks were telling it and that it's more ready than we'd assume since it chose to ignore those valuations. Now all it needs is for the government to reopen so that it can take some quick profits and disappoint everyone in the long term.