cover art for Upending Wall Street

The New Bazaar

Upending Wall Street

Season 1, Ep. 48

Dakin Campbell is the chief finance correspondent at Insider and, full disclosure, Cardiff's close friend. He joins Cardiff on the show to discuss his new book, “Going Public: How Silicon Valley Rebels Loosened Wall Street’s Grip on the IPO and Sparked a Revolution”.

When a company is relatively young… let’s say it’s a startup, and it is privately owned… the owners are usually some combination of the company’s founders, and venture capitalists who bet on the company, and maybe early employees who get paid in shares of the company as opposed to just getting a salary. 

And at some point, a private company like this can decide to go public. In other words, to list on the stock market so that you and I and anybody can buy and sell its stock. And so that the company itself can raise money to fund itself, and to give those founders and employees with early shares a place to sell them and cash in. 

When a private company wants to raise new money and give its existing shareholders a place to sell their shares, it can hire investment banks to start the process of going public and listing on a stock exchange. That process, of course, is the IPO, or initial public offering.

Dakin’s book is about how a lot of private companies through the years have not loved the way that process works. These companies have often been skeptical that the IPO process works as well for them as for the investment banks that they themselves hire. And yet, the traditional IPO model also did not change meaningfully for decades, at least not for the biggest and most prominent companies trying to go public. 

There were occasional one-off attempts to challenge the model, as when Google went public via auction in 2004. But it wasn’t until just about four years ago that a company, Spotify, not only tried a different model but also kicked off a new trend—one that’s still early, but which seems like it’s here to stay. 

And as you’ll hear in the chat, Dakin’s book is also about why getting this process right matters not just for the companies that want to go public and for Wall Street, but also for people who want a chance to participate financially in the economy.

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