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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Slack went public this week via the most elegant and efficient way possible — a direct listing. The opening auction of the stock cleared around noon on Thursday, at a price of $38.50. It then traded smoothly, under the ticker symbol WORK, for the rest of the week within a pretty narrow range between $36.50 and $42.

Why it matters: No one received preferential treatment. There was no possibility of the kind of scandalous behavior whereby banks like Goldman Sachs receive millions of dollars' worth of kickbacks from clients they place into hot IPOs.

  • Slack insiders sold $1.8 billion of stock in the opening auction, largely because the price was so high. In an auction system, sellers of stock can increase the amount they want to sell as the price goes up. Slack saw the perfect combination of a high stock price with a high volume of shares traded.
  • Traditional IPOs are "archaic and nepotistic," as venture capitalist Bill Gurley says. The direct model allocates stock to the highest bidders, which is much more logical.

What to watch: Slack and Spotify — which also opted for a direct listing — didn’t raise any new equity capital when they went public. But they can do so at any time, now that there's a deep and liquid market for their stock. And future IPOs might also use an auction system to allocate stock, a bit like Google did in 2004.

The bottom line: No matter how plugged in to the markets they are, IPO bankers will only ever be able to talk to a small subset of investors before they take a company public. The Slack auction — just like the Zoom IPO before it — shows just how unexpectedly large the bid can be when a hot, fast-growing company hits the market. It's silly for companies not to take full advantage of that upside.

Go deeper

Updated 3 hours ago - World

UK government: Kremlin has plan "to install pro-Russian leadership" in Ukraine

British Foreign Secretary Elizabeth Truss. Photo: Gints Ivuskans / AFP via Getty Images

The United Kingdom's Foreign Secretary on Saturday night said the government has "information that indicates the Russian Government is looking to install a pro-Russian leader in Kyiv as it considers whether to invade and occupy Ukraine."

Driving the news: U.S. National Security Council spokeswoman Emily Horne called the intelligence "deeply concerning" in a statement to Axios. The Biden administration has said Russia is actively manufacturing a pretext for invasion and warned that Putin could use joint military exercises in Belarus as cover to invade from the north.

Updated 4 hours ago - Science

This powerful new accelerator looks for keys to the center of atoms

Illustration: Eniola Odetunde/Axios

Nuclear physicists trying to piece together how atoms are built are about to get a powerful new tool.

Why it matters: When the Facility for Rare Isotope Beams begins experiments later this spring, physicists from around the world will use the particle accelerator to better understand the inner workings of atoms that make up all the matter that can be seen in the universe.

Updated 4 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Omicron dashboard

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

  1. Health: FDA OKs antiviral drug remdesivir for non-hospitalized COVID patients — Walensky: CDC language "pivoting" on "fully vaccinated" — Pfizer and Moderna boosters overwhelmingly prevent Omicron hospitalizations, CDC finds.
  2. Vaccines: The case for Operation Warp Speed 2.0 — Teens and adults missed 37 million vaccinations during COVID — Team USA 100% vaccinated against COVID ahead of Beijing Olympics — Kids' COVID vaccination rates are particularly low in rural America — Annual COVID vaccine preferable to boosters, says Pfizer CEO.
  3. Politics: Arizona governor sues Biden administration over COVID funds tied to mandates — Biden concedes U.S. should have done more testing — Arizona says it "will not be intimidated" by Biden on anti-mask school policies.
  4. World: American Airlines flight to London forced to turn around over mask dispute — WHO: COVID health emergency could end this year — Greece imposes vaccine mandate for people 60 and older — Austria approves COVID vaccine mandate for adults — Beijing officials urge COVID-19 "emergency mode" before Winter Olympics.
  5. Variant tracker