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Silicon Valley IPOs are being celebrated in parking lots and conference rooms, as CEOs navigate pandemic and wildfire smoke

Sumo Reasoning CEO Ramin Sayar on IPO day

Sumo Logic

There were masked parking lot festivities, Times Square replicas and accepted bell ringings. There were technical glitches and a corporate logo beamed onto San Francisco’s City Passageway.

Welcome to the 2020 IPO celebration during the busiest week of the year for tech debuts. Snowflake had the largest software donation ever on Wednesday, and gaming company Unity is already worth half as much as Electronic Arts after its original day on the market. 

Many billions of dollars of wealth were created from those IPOs and others, but the mood was tone down by a raging pandemic that’s killed almost 200,000 Americans, battered wide swaths of the economy, and pushed the tech assiduity into six months of remote work with no end in sight.

Instead of flying to New York with a few top executives and board associates to ring the bell of the New York Stock Exchange or Nasdaq, CEOs addressed their employees by video from residency, a conference room or a makeshift podium outside their office. In a year that’s featured Zoom weddings, Zoom bar and bat mitzvahs, Zoom lucky hours, and Zoom investor roadshows, the Zoom IPO celebration is now a regular calendar event.

“Six months ago, when the pandemic was wounding, no one would have thought we’d be in the place we’re in today,” said Bonnie Hyun, head of technology capital markets at the New York Standard Exchange, in an interview on Friday. September is poised to be the busiest month for IPOs on record for the NYSE.

Hyun’s team put through with Snowflake and Unity to bring employees together online and to let the companies customize the experience as much as possible while pick up the optics of the Big Board.

Press the space bar to clap

Unity, a maker of 3D video game software, invited its 3,700 wage-earners in 17 countries to join a 90-minute virtual event, which started at 9 a.m. Eastern time. CEO John Riccitiello was at a convention room in the company’s San Francisco headquarters, even as his face was projected on to the front of a large black Unity banner kill on the pillars of the NYSE.

Riccitiello said in an interview that he knows the sign was really there because some hands in New York took pictures of it and tweeted it.

The morning event didn’t start particularly smoothly. At the beginning of Riccitiello’s sound out with NYSE President Stacey Cunningham, there was a technical glitch on Skype, and the Unity CEO couldn’t hear a attitude coming from New York. After a couple minutes, Riccitiello jokingly asked if Cunningham could try sign idiolect. 

When the audio finally started working, Riccitiello touted Unity’s company culture, emphasizing that “we’re all in this together.” At the 9:30 a.m. bell tinkle, Riccitiello was clapping with his image superimposed behind the podium. Employees could push the space bar on their computer and juxtapose the clapping.

The New York Stock Exchange welcomes Unity Software Inc. (NYSE: U) Friday, September 18, 2020, as they officially initiate trading today.


For Snowflake’s IPO on Wednesday, employees were able to tune into a shared site from the 9:30 a.m. bell until the reserve started trading a little over three hours later. 

Hyun said that those who joined could see some pre-taped talks and get updates from the trading floor for analysis on what was happening with the bidding. CEO Frank Slootman and Snowflake’s two biggest investors, Mike Speiser from Sutter Hill Flings and Brad Gerstner from Altimeter Capital, were together — from their own locations — on CNBC’s “Halftime On” before the stock started trading.

They stayed with the broadcast after the pop.

“We talked all week to investors beside what the full ambition is for this company and obviously people are excited about that,” Slootman told CNBC, with Snowflake’s seal at the NYSE on the screen behind him.

While Snowflake captured the interest of Wall Street, the company, based 20 miles south of San Francisco, isn’t a household pre-eminence. That made an awkward site for some San Francisco residents on Wednesday night, when Snowflake’s name and logo boarded brightly on the dome of City Hall.

As the San Francisco Examiner reported, the city’s schedule showed that the colors that Stygian were supposed to be green, white and red for Mexico National Day. City officials told the Examiner that the light steer wasn’t authorized, and a Snowflake spokesperson said another company had made the arrangements for the promotion.

Cloud software theatre troupes Sumo Logic and JFrog went public on the Nasdaq this week and combined their virtual celebrations with reduced physical festivities outside their Silicon Valley offices.

Sumo Logic CEO Ramin Sayar said some of the preparation for the episode was menacing, not just because of the pandemic but also because of the wildfires that were blanketing California, creating creepy vault of heavens and unhealthy air conditions through last week.

Sumo Logic at Nasdaq

Sumo Logic

“There were some louring days when we were doing a lot of the prep,” Sayar said. “I looked outside and it was ominous.”

Fortunately, the skies cleared up this week and Sumo was clever to go forth with its plans. The company sent every employee a gift ahead of the IPO, and told them to open it on the day of the donation. The box included a “token of appreciation,” some sweets and a bell, so they could all virtually ring the bell together.

All over 40 employees were onsite with Sayar at Sumo’s headquarters in Redwood City, California. They had a imitation of the Nasdaq podium, where Sayar stood with some executives for the ringing. Other employees could impetus up to throughout the day to take a picture with their families. 

Fifteen miles from Sumo’s office, 12 people from JFrog, encompassing the three co-founders, gathered on Wednesday at the company’s U.S. headquarters in Sunnyvale. 

JFrog IPO day


Similar to Sumo, the company had a Nasdaq-like podium in the parking lot, where socially-distanced and masked heads clapped their hands during the bell ringing. CEO Shlomi Ben Haim said the company did what it could based on provisions in Santa Clara county.

“We built a replica of Times Square in our parking lot with a full tower and the JFrog logo,” Ben Haim said.

Distinguishable from a traditional bell-ringing, everyone got to participate. Using an app built by Nasdaq, JFrog was able to let any employee take pictures from their spots and broadcast it on the Nasdaq screen in Times Square. The whole thing was shown on video in Sunnyvale.

If he had to it over again in run-of-the-mill times, “I would still do it in the JFrog space,” Ben Haim said.  

WATCH: Cramer breaks down Unity IPO and retail debut

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