Uber is expected to make its IPO filing public on Thursday, with an expected valuation of $90 billlion to $100 billion. Yes, those are big numbers, and some longtime employees are going to get quite paper-rich very soon. But this panic over all the pending IPOs needs to stop.
I mentioned my skepticism in regards to the New York Times' now infamous "San Francisco Will Drown in Millionaires" piece the other day, after the Times published another sensational piece about a trash picker in the Mission sifting through the garbage bins of billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg. The New York Times is hellbent these days on following a narrative about San Francisco that isn't too far afield of the one that Fox News tells every other day — that we're this exotic liberal bubble island full of tech wealth and nerds and completely divorced from the rest of the country, and certainly not as used to having wealth around as New York is.
And now the Bold Italic has taken up the baton, speaking to some sober-minded local experts who basically say that no, we're probably not going to be drowning in new millionaires who snap up every house on the market with all-cash offers. (They also tracked down the ice sculptor who was quoted in the NYT piece, and he basically debunks the entire angle about how his business is going to be affected by IPOs, saying his quotes were totally taken out of context.)
As Lise Buyer, who advises tech companies on IPOs, tells the BI, the number of immediately wealthy — as in cash-rich — employees is likely going to be pretty limited at Uber, Airbnb, Pinterest, Lyft, et al. "Just because individuals work there and have been granted stock options doesn’t actually mean they own those shares fully, are vested or can sell them yet," Buyer says.
Right, so, given that it typically takes four years for options to vest, it's only the few people who stick around at one of these companies long enough to have a) been given a large amount of equity when they were hired, and b) have seen those shares fully vest, who stand to be very paper-rich on IPO day, assuming the stock doesn't tank.
Let's take Uber as an example.
As Reuters reports, Uber is planning to sell around $10 billion in stock, and it will kick off its institutional investor "road show" the week of April 29, with an expected IPO sometime in early May.
That will start the clock for those longer-term employees with vested options, whose options are now real stock, who will then have to wait out a six-month "lockup period" when they are not allowed to sell their stock.
Those who aren't in the market for a new home may not want to sell any shares at that point anyway, knowing that they could be worth a whole lot more if they wait things out — Ms. Buyer mentions in the BI piece that a lot of early Facebook employees now regret selling off their stock too quickly.
And then you have those employees who may just sell off a little bit of stock six months from now to put a down payment on something. They will essentially be in the same position as many of the well-heeled people in the housing market in SF, it's just they'll potentially be richer on paper.
Yes, there will be a few new millionaires. And yes, you'll probably overhear some annoying conversations from self-satisfied 30-somethings with more money than you at the next table over at Delfina or Zuni in the coming months. But let's all calm down. This town's had its share of gold rushes. Nothing to see here.
San Francisco’s IPO Panic Is All Hype [Bold Italic]
Photo: Anjo Clacino