a16z Podcast: The Curious Case of the OpenTable IPO

There are the things that you carefully plan when it comes to an IPO — the who (the bankers, the desired institutional investors); the what (the pricing, the allocations); and the when (are we ready? is this a good public business?). But then there are the things that you don’t plan: like the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression… as happened before the OpenTable IPO. There’s even a case study about it.

And so in this episode of the a16z Podcast, we delve into those lessons learned and go behind the scenes with the then-CEO of the company — now general partner Jeff Jordan — and with the then-banker on the deal, J.D. Moriarty (formerly head Managing Director and Head of Equity Capital Markets at Bank of America Merrill Lynch), in conversation with Sonal Chokshi. Is there really such a thing as an ideal timing window?

Beyond the transactional aspects of the IPO, which relationships matter and why? And then how does the art and science of pricing (from the allocations to the “pop”) play here, especially when it comes to taking a long-term view for the company? What are the subtle, non-obvious things entrepreneurs can do — from building a “soft track record” of results to providing the right “guidance” (or rather, communication if not guidance per se) to the market? And finally, who at the company should be involved… and how much should the rest of the company know/ be involved? In many ways, observes Jordan — who got swine flu while on the road to the OpenTable IPO — “your life is not your own” when you’re on the road, literally. But knowing much of this can help smooth the way.