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MuleSoft, a San Francisco-based SaaS integration company, last night priced the year's first big enterprise software IPO, raising $221 million. Shares are up sharply in their first day of trading on Friday, giving it a value well north of $3 billion.

Axios spoke by phone with MuleSoft CEO Greg Schott, who touched on IPO timing, acquisitions, immigration policy and his message to company employees about following the stock price:

On why the 11 year-old company is going public now:

"For a growing company like this, investors are most focused on what you're able to do with your free cash flow. We'd managed to take negative cash flow down to negative 4%, on the verge of break-even, while continuing to grow the business at 70% per year, which helped us feel that we were good and ready.... The biggest driver of going public, in general, is that we sell mission-critical software to large-scale organizations and we felt that being a public company would give them more confidence to buy from us."

On its professional services segment having negative margins:

"We run professional services as a way to get our companies successful on our products, but we're not waking up each morning looking at how we maximize margins on services. Instead, we use services as a core driver for the software subscription business."

On possible acquisitions:

Schott says that the company is particularly interested in small "fold-in" purchases of security and analytics companies, since MuleSoft "has visibility into the flow of information in every part of an organization" that it could build on top of. It also is interested in acqui-hires of strong engineering talent.

On immigration policy, given that a large number of MuleSoft employees work outside the U.S.:

"The free flow of talent across borders is important to business, to capitalism and is a big driver of the American tech market. Anything that impedes that flow is not positive. We and others are going to find ways to work through it, but it obviously is not helpful."

Message to employees about the IPO:

"We've been telling the team that our mission is to go build a great company for the long-term. The stock is going to move around from day-to-day and month-to-month, and we've showed them times when even companies like Google and Facebook weren't trading great for six months or so. If we do right by our customers and keep building the company, then the stock will follow. But you can't watch the stock price on a near-term basis and feel it reflects the worth, or lack of worth, of MuleSoft."

Giphy

Go deeper

School principals are not OK

Principal Alice Hom (purple jacket) of New York's Yung Wing School P.S. 124 near a vaccination van in November. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

The overwhelming majority of secondary school principals experienced frequent stress last school year, according to a RAND Corporation report out Wednesday.

The big picture: The stress levels among female principals and principals of color were especially stark, with nearly 40% in these groups reporting constant job-related stress, compared to about 24% of male principals and 26% of white principals.

It's official: Stock market having worst start to year ever

Data: FactSet; Chart: Axios Visuals

It's been a decidedly ugly start to the year for the stock market, with particular pain in the tech trade.

State of play: As of the end of trading Tuesday — the 16th session of the year — 2022 is now, officially, the worst-ever start in the history of the S&P 500, according to data from Ned Davis Research, a stock market research shop.

Surprising pandemic side effect: Soaring trade deficits

Source: Census Bureau and Bureau of Economic Analysis; Chart: Axios Visuals

Inflation and jobs may get all the economic headlines, but meanwhile a big shift is taking place in the underpinnings of the world economy: The U.S. trade deficit is soaring.

What's happening: Americans' spending on imported physical goods has gone through the roof, while exports are growing slowly, making the U.S. the world's consumer of last resort.