Slack is getting ready to go public this year, but it may not raise any money in the process.
The San Francisco-based workplace-collaboration company is considering a direct listing instead of a traditional IPO, The Wall Street Journal reports. When a company lists its shares directly rather than using an underwriter, it doesn't create or sell any new stock. Instead, existing shareholders put up their shares for sale, which means the company doesn't get any money.
A direct listing is a viable option only for companies that can afford to forgo the cash boost IPOs typically provide. That appears to be the case for Slack, which raised a $427 million funding round at a $7.1 billion valuation last August. The company is expected to go public in the second quarter of 2019.
Startups may be enticed to try a direct listing to avoid the pricey underwriting fees associated with a traditional IPO, but it's also a risky move if a company can't generate sufficient investor interest on its own. Music-streaming company Spotify is the only company to go through the process in the U.S., tapping Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, and Allen & Company as advisers. Slack is working with the same trio for its own listing, according to the WSJ.
For years, there has been tremendous speculation about when Slack would go public. Co-founder and CEO Stewart Butterfield told Inc. in 2016 that he runs the business in a way that would allow it to go public at any time. Still, he said, the company--which now has eight million daily users--needed to establish a lengthy track record.
"One of the things you need to go public is a high degree of predictability," Butterfield said. "When you're growing more than 100 percent a year, a little change results in a big delta."