The year of the blockbuster IPO is the way 2017 was billed, as analysts predicted public listings for three of the biggest tech unicorns.
That trio of course was Snap, Uber and Airbnb. And the reason the markets were so excited was potential combined valuation in the hundreds of billions.
Snap blinked first and debuted on Wall Street in early March, with the company valued at $29 billion after the first day of trading.
Now the big question on everyone’s lips is, who is next?
On the face of it, Airbnb is in pole position to be the next mega-IPO.
The holiday rental business set the markets on alert in November 2016, when CEO and co-founder Brian Chesky said: “We’re definitely trying to prepare the company to be IPO-ready as soon as possible.”
But he also poured a little cold water on the rumour mill by adding: “We agree that when it’s best for the business we’re going to do it. So we don’t have any intentions to go public in the near-term.”
On top of that, the building blocks are clearly being put in place, with co-founder Nathan Blecharczyk transitioning from his CTO role to a Chief Strategy Officer position, where he will oversee investments and acquisitions.
But the most important sign that Airbnb is ready and willing to go public comes in the numbers.
Those numbers reveal more than 100 million users, close to 750,000 hosts and an 80 per cent increase in revenue in 2016.
But the most important statistic in this story is profitability. According to a report in Bloomberg Technology, the sharing economy unicorn made money for the first time in the second half of 2016 and expects it to make a profit in 2017 too.
Making a profit is something still a long way off for ride-sharing and taxi company Uber.
The San Francisco based unicorn losing racked up an estimated $3b in losses in 2016 as it fought for market share amidst fierce competition from the likes of Lyft in America, Grab in south-east Asia and of course a failed attempt at dominating China, which ended with the local business being sold to equally well funded rival Didi Chuxing.
What it does have though is users and money – both in revenue and in cash reserves.
Uber CEO Travis Kalanick revealed the company had more than 40 million active riders each month and was in more than 500 cities.
In terms of money, the ride-sharing giant is reported to have made $5.5b in revenue in 2016 and raised $3.5b in funding from a Saudi sovereign wealth fund in the middle of last year.
In other words. Even though Uber is burning through cash at an unprecedented rate, it still has plenty more to burn through before it needs to raise again. There is no inherent need for the business to float on the stock market just yet.
Perhaps more relevant could be the regulatory and internal corporate issues that have been dogging them in the early part of 2017 – issues which might not play well with investors should they decide to list in the near future.
These issues – including negotiating with regulatory authorities and accusations of sexism within the organisation – will be easier to deal with as a private company than a public one.
To answer the question. All of the signs point to at least one more huge IPO in 2017, and those signs seem to point to that coming from Airbnb. They have grown the number of users, grown revenues and most importantly grown profitable.
And while they also don’t need the funds – the Airbnb estimated warchest is also in the billions – it has started to shift it’s corporate structure to suit a public listing.
But will they be the next of the tech giants to go public? They look the most likely, but in tech you can never tell. Watch this space…