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Opinion
Matt Levine

Uber Is On Its Way to an IPO

Also direct listings, leveraged loans and opaque ETFs.

It’s sort of fun to go back through old news articles about Uber Technologies Inc.’s financing rounds. Here’s one from June 2014:

Seventeen billion! Ooooooh! Different times, man. Less than a year earlier Uber had raised money at a $3.5 billion valuation. Less than a year later, in May 2015, it raised money at a $50 billion valuation. And then … well, then it kept raising a lot of money, but the valuations stopped rising so rapidly. They crept up a bit: $68 billion$72 billion. And now Uber is apparently planning to file publicly for an initial public offering tomorrow, to price sometime in May, and “is seeking a valuation of between $90 billion and $100 billion, influenced by the poor performance of smaller rival Lyft Inc’s shares following its IPO late last month.” In the four years leading up to the IPO, its value has about doubled. Alphabet Inc. is up 123 percent in that same time period; Facebook Inc. is up 126 percent. These are good results! But if you got into Uber in May 2015, you didn’t get—and you can’t have expected—an early-stage-venture-capital-style reward for the risk you were taking by backing a (then and now) money-losing company with dreams of world domination. Instead you invested in a large mature public tech company that happened to be private and losing money. There is something a bit anticlimactic about an Uber IPO: It is already huge, it has already raised oceans of money, its financials are already more or less public, how big a deal is an IPO really?