There’s no narrative the tech industry likes quite as much as a good revolutionary tale in which a startup pursues a strategy that topples an established order. Such a mythology is now being constructed around the upcoming Spotify IPO.
It goes like this: Spotify is doing an end run around investment banks by listing its shares directly on the stock market. This is supposed to result in fewer fees for impoverished investment banks and new freedom for tech companies. That was the vibe of a story by the Wall Street Journal this week: “Spotify Disrupted the Music World, Now It’s Doing the Same to Wall Street.”
The reality is that by taking this route Spotify is pursuing a risky strategy. And it’s likely only doing so because it was backed into a corner by its investors and by private fundraising that led to a dangerously high valuation of $19 billion.
“This is not a story of problems in the IPO market,” according to Kathleen Smith, a principal at Renaissance Capital and manager of IPO ETFs. “It’s a problem with Spotify’s valuation.”