Drivers of Change: The New IPO

The Old IPO

2019 is looking to be the year of the IPO. Headlines over the first quarter were replete with listings or announcements from Lyft, Uber, Airbnb, Postmates, Slack, Pinterest, Palantir, and more immensely valuable tech companies. The IPO – or Initial Public Offering, in Wall Street speak – has historically been a way for “the public” to purchase ownership in a company and benefit from what was projected to be its meteoric rise. There are two key problems here:

1.    Getting in on the action in a meaningful way usually requires access to investable (disposable) income – a largely foreign concept to those who have been structurally excluded from our current economic system, as well as those now being pushed out of the shrinking middle class and into the nebulous and struggling “working class”.

2.    Many of the most recent tech IPOs have featured companies whose valuation is already astronomical, leaving far less upside by the time ownership is offered to the public. These IPOs really just make the rich richer.

This version of the IPO is failing to produce the pathway to equitable wealth and opportunity that (theoretically) it was meant to provide as part of the “American Dream”.

The New IPO

A year or two ago, I was sitting at a local pub with a couple of my best friends. They were trying to describe my approach to ATP and the world in three words (I must have been working on an application or profile at the time). After much laughter and conversation, three rose to the top:

Idealism. Pragmatism. Optimism.

These seemingly contradictory words struck me as incredibly accurate and necessary – not just for me, but for anyone seeking to enact system change.

Idealism to develop powerful shared visions of what could be – ideas that pull our collective imaginations out of the trash compactor that is “how we’ve always done things” and “just the way it is,” and dare us to dream bigger.

Pragmatism to ground these big ideas and theoretical concepts in an appreciative view that seeks out the best of “what is” as the critical first rung on the ladder to “what will become”.

Optimism is the sustaining force – if we do not believe that deep, meaningful change is possible, we may never begin. It is also important to note that this is not a dewy-eyed optimism that ignores harsh realities – but rather recognizes them as further evidence of a broken system and motivation to change it.

What you can do, or dream you can, begin it; Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it.
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe / John Anster

Taken together, and with a little wordsmithing, I began to describe myself and all who work for a just and regenerative future as Idealistic Pragmatic Optimists – the New IPOs. Going forward, I believe it is these bold individuals, not the Initial Public Offering or other traditional financial instruments, that will be responsible for the positive distribution of equity – of all kinds. 

Let’s make 2019 the year of the IPO – the New IPO.