Dec 17, 2020 - Economy & Business

IPOs meet reality TV

Illustration of a television with $100 bill on the TV screen
Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Initial public offerings are getting the reality TV treatment, with a new show that will track five established companies on their path to the Nasdaq. And viewers will be able to buy-in.

Program guide: It's called "Going Public," and will stream via Entrepreneur.com. The host is Lauren Simmons, who was the youngest full-time equities trader on the NYSE, and the floor's second Black woman trader.

What they're saying: "My partner first suggested this idea three years ago and I cut him off because I'd seen half a dozen decks like it and they all looked dumb," says Darren Marble, executive producer and a veteran crowdfunding executive.

  • "But then we began talking about putting together the domain expertise to really executive, banking, compliance, distribution, a host with financial experience... And it began coming together."

How it works: Each of the five companies will have at least $20 million in annual revenue, primarily in the direct-to-consumer sector.

  • Marble says the first company cast is a VC-backed Y Combinator alum that went on "Shark Tank" but didn't get a deal.
  • The companies will be followed for 10 weeks, as they work toward a Reg A+ offering underwritten by Roth Capital.
  • Beneath the streaming video box on Entrepreneur.com will be a link that leads viewers to a page whereby they'll be able to invest at the IPO price (assuming that it closes). It's effectively what Reg A+ was designed to do, albeit not necessarily by the imagined mechanism.

"You saw what Massachusetts just did with Robinhood," Lauren Simmons told me last night, before the SEC filed its own suit. "Platforms like that can be great, but they're not really teaching the next generation of investors how to be smart investors. My job is to give viewers the facts and resources to make educated decisions."

The bottom line: This may represent peak IPO. Or the future of small-cap offerings. Or both.

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