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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Apparently investors love to read IPO prospectuses in August, because both Peloton and WeWork unveiled their S-1 filings last month.

The big picture: The two companies are similar in that they both spend a lot of money on sales and marketing, which they then attempt to recoup over time with monthly payments from their customers.

The big question: How much time does a customer need to remain a customer before a company becomes profitable?

In the case of Peloton, the answer is "almost immediately." Customer acquisition costs are roughly equal to the markup on the company's bicycles and treadmills. After that, Peloton makes money every month that the customer pays $39 for a fitness subscription.

  • But, but, but: Peloton's losses have been rising along with its revenues. As the NYT's Erin Griffith reports, "competitors and copycats are moving in aggressively," often at significantly lower price points. If Peloton wants to maintain or increase its market share, its customer acquisition costs are probably going to increase over time.

WeWork's financials are harder to understand. Rett Wallace, the CEO of private-company intelligence firm Triton, has called the company's S-1 "a masterpiece of obfuscation." It's therefore hard to work out exactly what WeWork's customer acquisition cost is. But Wallace estimates that a tenant needs to stay in place for 13.5 years, on average, before they break even for the company.

  • Between the lines: WeWork's value proposition is that it doesn't lock tenants into long leases. But the company's accounting hides the cost of finding new tenants to replace ones who move out.
  • How it works: After a location has been open for 24 months, its sales and marketing expenses no longer appear in WeWork's corporate sales and marketing budget, and instead are incorporated into the individual budget for the location itself. Shareholders therefore have no way of seeing WeWork's total sales and marketing expenses.

The bottom line: "Customer acquisition costs always go up, not down," says Wallace. Anybody buying into the WeWork or Peloton IPOs should bear that in mind as they try to model when and whether either company might become profitable. In the case of WeWork, the company itself seems to be asking similar questions.

Go deeper: WeWork CEO returns $5.9 million "trademark payment" to the company

Go deeper

Trump impeachment trial to start week of Feb. 8, Schumer says

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. Photo: The Washington Post via Getty

The Senate will begin former President Trump's impeachment trial the week of Feb. 8, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced Friday on the Senate floor.

The state of play: Schumer announced the schedule after reaching an agreement with Republicans. The House will transmit the article of impeachment against the former president late Monday.

1 hour ago - Health

CDC extends interval between COVID vaccine doses for exceptional cases

Photo: Joseph Prezioso/AFP via Getty

Patients can space out the two doses of the coronavirus vaccine by up to six weeks if it’s "not feasible" to follow the shorter recommended window, according to updated guidance from the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention.

Driving the news: With the prospect of vaccine shortages and a low likelihood that supply will expand before April, the latest changes could provide a path to vaccinate more Americans — a top priority for President Biden.

Texas AG sues Biden administration over deportation freeze

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton speaks to members of the media in 2016. Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton is suing the Biden administration in federal district court over its 100-day freeze on deporting unauthorized immigrants, and he's asking for a temporary restraining order.

Between the lines: The freeze went into effect Friday, temporarily halting most immigration enforcement in the U.S. In the lawsuit, Paxton claims the move "violates the U.S. Constitution, federal immigration and administrative law, and a contractual agreement between Texas" and the Department of Homeland Security.