Turning the page from the early-stage venture capital market to the super late-stage exit market, this morning we’re talking about endpoint security company SentinelOne’s IPO in the context of Sprinklr’s own. We’ll have more on the public offering market later today when Doximity and Confluent price their respective IPOs after the close of trading.
SentinelOne’s IPO, expected to price on June 29 and trade June 30, is a fascinating debut. Why? Because the company sports a combination of rapid growth and expanding losses that make it a good heat check for the IPO market. Its debut will allow us to answer whether public investors still value growth above all else. And this week, the company gave us an early dataset regarding its market value in the form of an IPO price range. This means we can do some unpacking and thinking.
A reminder regarding why we dwell on the exit market for unicorns: We care because the value of late-stage startups when they reach a liquidity point helps set valuation comps for myriad smaller startups. Furthermore, the level of public-market enthusiasm for loss-making, growth-focused companies will determine the scale of returns for many a venture capitalist, founder and early employee.
So, let’s talk about SentinelOne’s cybersecurity IPO price range; Sprinklr’s social-media software debut will play foil.
The price of growth
It can make good sense to pay up for a quickly growing company’s shares. This is why you may hear of a startup raising an early-stage round at a very high revenue multiple.
Why put a $50 million price tag on a startup that just crossed the $1 million annual recurring revenue (ARR) threshold? If it’s growing sufficiently quickly, the math can pencil out. If that startup was growing at 300% per year, say, the revenue multiple that you paid in the round valuing the startup at $50 million would fall sharply over the next year, at which point other investors would probably scramble to put more capital into the firm at a higher price.
Bingo! You just got a markup on your initial investment, and the company has found someone else to lead their next round at a higher price, giving it even more capital to keep its growth game going and make your early investment appear prescient. See? Venture capital is easy.1
The same general idea applies to companies going public. Growth matters, and the more rapidly a company is adding revenue, the more money it will be worth because investors can anticipate its future scale (within reason). Some companies that sport quick growth can have other issues that impact their value. Extensive debt, for example, a history of uneven growth, or deteriorating economics could come into play. Or simply very high losses.