SINGAPORE (July 29): The crash-and-burn IPO of at the height of the tech bubble in February 2000 was a seminal moment in global corporate history. The online pet food retailer had chalked up a mere US$619,000 in sales in the year ahead of its IPO, yet commanded US$330 million in market capitalisation at its listing debut. Selling products for a third of what you pay for them clearly does not make a viable business model. Not surprisingly, then, within weeks, had gone bust and has been the butt of investors’ jokes ever since.

Two decades on, tech investors could be forgiven for a sense of déjà vu. Ride hailing giants Uber and Lyft listed earlier this year and are both currently still way underwater despite a bull market rally that has created new records. “Both Uber and Lyft have yet to convince investors that they have a path to profitability,” veteran tech fund manager Paul Meeks, who runs the Wireless Fund in Bellingham, a suburb of Seattle, Washington, tells The Edge Singapore.

Now Wall Street is waiting for the most controversial IPO in years — the September listing of WeWork, the shared-office provider backed by Japan’s Softbank Group and its US$100 billion ($136.4 billion) Vision Fund. With 750 locations in 125 cities in 36 countries, including Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong, WeWork, whose valuation has ballooned to over US$47 billion, is by far the world’s largest tenant and one of America’s biggest unicorns, or a privately held tech firm valued at over US$1 billion. Already, it is the biggest tenant of commercial real estate in key financial centres such as New York and London as well as tech centres such as San Francisco.

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