The Ticker

What you need to know about the buy-now-pay-later startup founded by PayPal veteran Max Levchin that went public today

PayPal co-founder and Affirm CEO Max Levchin makes a gesture while speaking on the show “Closing the Bell.”
PayPal co-founder and Affirm CEO Max Levchin makes a gesture while speaking on the show “Closing the Bell.”
PayPal co-founder and Affirm CEO Max Levchin. Photo: John Lamparski/Getty Images

Welcome to The Ticker, a series that examines everything you need to know about companies going public.

Today, Affirm will discover the value of patience.

Originally slated to go public in late 2020, Affirm, the financial services company created by PayPal co-founder Max Levchin that lets customers “buy now, pay later,” pushed its IPO to the new year. That decision was said to have been heavily influenced by the scorching debuts enjoyed by DoorDash and Airbnb, which saw both companies end their first day of trading markedly above projected prices. Although neither of those firms is complaining about how their IPOs performed, Affirm’s leadership seems to have taken the position that given the market’s enthusiasm, going public at their original price would amount to leaving money on the table. The company recently revised its price range in an updated SEC filing (from $33–$38 to $41–$44), and was reported late yesterday to have raised that to $49 a share, which would value the company at close to $12 billion. …


The Ticker

In 2008, few believed the startup could convince people to open their homes to strangers. In 2020, they’re counting on it to rescue the travel industry.

The Airbnb iOS app download page is displayed on the Apple App store.
The Airbnb iOS app download page is displayed on the Apple App store.
Photo: Jakub Porzycki/NurPhoto/Getty Images

Welcome to The Ticker, a series that examines everything you need to know about companies going public.

More than 12 years since its founding and less than nine months after the first U.S. lockdown order, Airbnb is slated to go public. It represents a remarkable show of resilience for a company in the travel and hospitality sectors, which were both battered by the coronavirus.

Airbnb’s performance during the pandemic may help persuade the market that much upside lies ahead. CEO Brian Chesky moved early this year to cut costs, adapt the business to a virtual world, and raise $2 billion in debt and equity to keep the lights on. The maneuvering worked and helped Airbnb rebound from an initial slump. …


Staking creators, Twitter for podcasts, essential oils, and developer credentials

👉 Get free startup ideas from leading VCs by joining RFS 100

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Welcome back and a Happy Thanksgiving to those that celebrated yesterday.

Last week’s brought 5 new ideas, including the “Strava of Cooking,” which was most popular in this straw poll. To vote for your favorite idea this week, just hit the button below. We’ve made it easier to share your thoughts.

Vote for an idea

Now, onto the ideas. This week we’re hearing from:


Buy now, pay later’s next act

👉 Join +16,000 members learning about tech from idea to IPO at The Generalist

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J. Paul Getty had a simple formula for success: “Rise early, work hard, strike oil.”

His life seemed to follow precisely that pattern. In 1914, his father gave a 22-year-old J.P. $10,000 to buy land and grow the family’s holdings. He picked a spot in Haskell, Oklahoma, and promptly hit oil. Within two years, he was a millionaire. That knack seemed to follow the younger Getty throughout his life — a nose for opportunity, a gift for sniffing out valuable terrain. …


👉 Join +15,000 members learning about tech from idea to IPO at The Generalist

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Hara Masahiro looked out the window, turning the same problem over again in his mind.

Why couldn’t he solve it?

He’d come so far. To fail now…well, it was a heartbreaking thought. The city passed the grey, drab window of his commuter train, pulling him back toward the office and another day of studying the odd speckle of black and white to which he’d devoted himself.

Perhaps he reflected on the question of speed as he swung through Kariya, a city along Japan’s eastern coast. It had certainly been nagging him. How could he get the scanner to recognize his strange little barcode? …


The religions of Tesla, bitcoin, and Peter Thiel

👉 Join +14,000 members learning about tech from idea to IPO at The Generalist

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WHO IS THIS FOR?

  • Founders. Peter Thiel talked about the value in building a “cult” at your startup. What does that mean? And how might you take it further? The secret in creating a truly resistant organization may require building a religion.
  • Investors. Scott Galloway often talks about backing “unregulated monopolies.” Another ripe category for investment might be “unrecognized religions.” There’s a reason Tesla is so difficult to short.
  • Learners. Technology has fundamentally changed how religions are born. Communities coalesce on message boards, spread ideology on social media, and create functional gods. …

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An explanation of why The Generalist’s initial piece on compounders was removed from the website, and why it has returned in a revised form.

As many of you will remember, on October 18, 2020, The Generalist published “C.R.E.A.M.” the first part in a series on “compounders,” companies that grow double-digits over an extended period.

It was a piece I’d written with a collaborator. I’d enjoyed the research and writing, and I was proud of it. As with most of my work, the goal was to explain a concept many might have heard about, framing it in a way that contributes to the conversation, making it more memorable. …


👉 Join +12,000 members learning about tech from idea to IPO at The Generalist

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The upshot: VCs are looking to capture talent earlier and earlier. This has created opportunities and complications for new founders.

Olivia Moultrie receives the ball with her back to goal, just past the halfway line. In a fluid motion, she turns, brings the ball into stride, and with an effortless shimmy evades a defender’s pressure. It’s a confident, elegant move, almost knowing in the use of space and physicality.

With the ball at her feet, Olivia looks like a veteran. In the clip referred to, s he’s only thirteen.

She’s already a professional, though. After training with European giants Paris Saint-Germain, Lyon, and Bayern Munich, Olivia signed terms with the Portland Thorns. To do so, she turned down the scholarship the University of North Carolina had offered her at the tender age of 11. …


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👉 Join +11,000 members learning about tech from idea to IPO at The Generalist.

In 2014, I tried to start a bank.

Perhaps if I tell you the other ideas I considered, you’ll get a sense of how prepared I was for this effort.

  • A “fun” weather app. I was very light on the particulars of what would make it enjoyable.
  • A review site for bars called “BottlecApp.” I am not sure which came first, the terrible pun or the terrible idea.
  • A video dating app. Instead of pictures, you could view short clips to get a sense for the person before committing to meeting. Not a dreadful idea but undercooked and underwhelming.

“Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to,” Mark Twain said. In recounting this list, I felt a heat rise in my cheeks, a twinge of my embarrassment that lives six years later. …

About

Mario Gabriele

Tech from idea to IPO at readthegeneralist.com. Investing in chaotic-good founders at charge.vc

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