IPO Public Markets

The Market Minute: IPO Flashback To Brighter Bell-Ringing Days

Illustration of a board game in the style of Chutes & Ladders named The Market Minute.

Remember IPOs? Those were fun days.

This year has been the opposite of last year’s when it comes to the number of companies going public. But as the IPO summer drought drags on, we looked at some of the bountiful seasons for companies going public and more specifically those companies that made the most of their moment in the spotlight. 

Ringing that bell

Nasdaq Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer Jeff Thomas spends his days helping companies go public.

He’s also had a front row seat to witness how the exchange has evolved the signature moment of an IPO—ringing the opening bell.

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The bell-ringing ceremony is always a hot topic when Nasdaq works with a company for an IPO, Thomas said. It’s often the CEO or a co-founder who rings the bell, but not always.

Nasdaq tries to make the ceremony as inclusive as possible and include as many people as they can on the stage to make the moment not about one person, but the team that got the company there, Thomas said.

But the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in how the exchange celebrated IPOs. Since then, there have been virtual bell-ringing ceremonies, IPOs on site at a company’s headquarters, and even a bell-ringing ceremony in the metaverse. 

Here is a countdown to my top favorites of recent years.

#5 Square

When Square (NYSE:SQ) went public in 2015, it actually held its IPO outside the New York Stock Exchange. CEO Jack Dorsey’s mother, Marcia, had the honor of ringing the opening bell by making a purchase from Square’s first vendor, Lilybelle Flowers owner Cheri Mims. While this IPO happened several years ago, it’s a favorite because Dorsey’s mom is a mom and that’s cute.

#4 Uber

Uber (NYSE:UBER) faced a dilemma when it went public in 2019. CEO Travis Kalanick, the face of the company for so long, had been ousted two years before the company went public. Former Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi eventually took over, and there were questions swirling over whether Kalanick would have a role in the IPO or stand on the balcony with other executives. He hadn’t exactly left the company on friendly terms.

The company went another direction instead. Uber’s first intern, Austin Geidt, ended up ringing the bell for the IPO. Geidt started as an intern for Uber in 2010 and worked her way up the ranks, so it seemed fitting for her to have the honor, and it’s why it’s a favorite.

#3 Sportradar

When Sportradar (NASDAQ: SRAD) went public in 2021, its IPO was star-studded. Included in the New York opening bell ceremony was basketball superstar Michael Jordan—an investor in Sportradar. Nasdaq’s Thomas pointed out that it wasn’t the first time a celebrity’s been involved in an opening ceremony. Jessica Alba, for example, was on hand during The Honest Company’s IPO that same year.

#2 Journey

This isn’t an IPO, but I included it on this list because it’s one of the more memorable opening bell ceremonies. The executive team at Journey rang the opening bell at the Nasdaq, but in the metaverse. 

“It was important to us to be the first exchange to open markets in the metaverse,” Thomas said. “We always want to think of our exchange as the home for innovative technology.”

Thomas anticipated it wouldn’t be the last time the Nasdaq opens by ringing the bell in the metaverse as more companies pivot toward that frontier. The exchange tries to incorporate its companies’ technology when it can, such as when it had Sonos create a new sound for its bell during the company’s IPO.

#1 Airbnb

Airbnb’s IPO in December 2020 is definitely a standout. One of the most anticipated IPOs of 2020, Airbnb (NASDAQ: ABNB) spent 12 years as a private company. 

Nasdaq originally suggested hosts in every single timezone in the world ring a bell leading up to the IPO, Thomas said. The very first Airbnb guests would ring the final doorbell at the apartment on Rausch Street in San Francisco, the original Airbnb where the company’s co-founders once lived. The co-founders would open the door to greet their first guests who they hosted more than a decade ago. 

But then the second wave of COVID-19 hit, and those plans were scrapped. Instead, Nasdaq worked with Airbnb to develop a video of hosts around the world ringing bells, until the first Airbnb guest, Amol, rang the doorbell of the original apartment on Rausch Street. 

“It wasn’t about them, it  was about the hosts,” Thomas said. “It was about being inclusive, global. Of course, of all the unique places you can stay, but bringing it back to where it started.”

Illustration: Dom Guzman

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