It’s official: Spotify, the wildly popular music streaming platform, took a leap and filed with the SEC to become a public company late last year. Many in the tech industry expected this move was in the works, and the news was confirmed by Axios this week.
However, the most noteworthy part of this announcement is how Spotify has chosen to join its competition in the public space.
Instead of entering the stock market through a traditional IPO process, Spotify has reportedly opted for a “direct listing,” which means it won’t need to travel to seek out investors and will bypass bank underwriting fees, among other things. As a direct listing, Spotify could also promote its new business model to the media ahead of its projected Q1 debut, something SEC rules strictly prohibit for IPOs.
The direct listing process could also encourage high stock value sales day-of debut, avoiding a “leave money on the table” situation, which can happen when high net worth individuals and institutional investors get first dibs on IPOs but banks recommend the company only trades up to about 20 percent or so. Under its chosen process, Spotify stock values could debut much higher, driven by demand and what investors are willing – and able – to pay.
By taking this non-traditional route Spotify will, however, forgo potentially millions of dollars they could have fundraised in an IPO. Those dollars could have helped pay down debt or settled lawsuits, but Spotify’s direct listing move seems to be about more than money. Spotify was last valued at $8.5 billion, so it might not need monetary help anyway.
Overall, a direct listing may reduce the hassle of going public. Spotify is just filing paperwork to make it legal for anybody to trade company shares, basically. Direct listing is casual and less structured.
However, some are concerned that chill approach won’t do enough to help Spotify once it’s actually public. Sure, networking with investors to build equity and relationships may be tedious, but those connections could pay off down the road when it’s time for financial reporting and underwriters can help shareholders trade more easily, along with Wall Street sponsorship aids that help buyers and sellers in similar ways, according to David Golden of Revolutions Ventures.
Spotify’s actions could be risky, too, as their stock may not fit customary Wall Street standards and in turn be avoided by some investors, David Menlow, president of IPOfinancial.com, told Marketplace.
For now, all eyes are on Spotify and its decision. Wall Street, industry leaders, and even the SEC are all interested in how their direct listing will play out. As others in the tech space have expressed frustration with the traditional IPO process before (think Uber), more companies may follow suit if Spotify succeeds as a directly listed public company. That could put pressure on Wall Street and the SEC to change the IPO process, too.