Size Does Matter for Ride-Hailing IPOs, as Unicorns Rush to the Public Markets

December 11, 2018

By Chloe Aiello

As ride-hailing companies Uber and Lyft rush to debut on the public markets, the pressure is on. Not only are the rivals racing each other to be first out of the gate, but ride-hailing also represents an entirely new category for regulators ー which means no one is quite sure how to value them.

"You can falter out of the gates, because people don't know how to value a ride-share company, and that's a risk as well," Phil Haslett, founder and chief revenue officer of EquityZen told Cheddar on Tuesday.

Last week, ride-hail rivals Uber and Lyft both filed confidential paperwork to go public last week ー on the same day, according to The New York Times. The considerably smaller of the two, Lyft, is targeting a $15 billion IPO valuation, whereas Uber has been told by investment bankers it could be worth as much as $120 billion. That gives Uber a running start by sheer size alone, Haslett said.

"When markets get really turbulent, like they are right now, the bigger you are the better you are. You've got a stronger boat to kind of manage those turbulent seas," he said.

And Uber's got another thing going for it. If it decides to define itself as a logistics company, instead of purely a ride-sharing company, it may give regulators a bit more to work with valuation-wise.

"Uber really is a logistics company, so maybe you want to define yourself a little bit differently than just being in the ride-sharing space." Haslett said.

In the long run, aside from bragging rights, it doesn't really matter which company goes public first. But since Lyft is smaller, it may be beneficial to debut ahead of Uber.

"We've seen this happen before with storage companies, like Dropbox and Box, where Box decided to go out earlier as a smaller company, maybe get a bit of attention first," Haslett said. "Both of these companies have spent spent so much on marketing, going IPO is one of the last areas to get the juice from that marketing opportunity."

Regardless, 2019 is shaping up to be major for tech public offerings. A mixed bag of names including Lyft and Uber, of course, as well as Airbnb and Slack are all mulling debuts on the open market. Lucky for them, Haslett said, investor interest across the board is peaking for unicorn companies.

For full interview click here.