A large book titled “Recipes for Going Public,” a chef blowing a kiss, and a pot of dollar bills and unicorn horns.

The New Rules of the IPO

Three Ways to Take Your Company Public Without a Traditional IPO

Dutch auctions? Reverse mergers? Direct listings? The pros and cons of IPO alternatives.

Jennifer Alsever
Published in
8 min readFeb 18, 2020


This story is part of The New Rules of the IPO, a multi-part special report.
Illustrations: James Clapham

AA graveyard of hyped unicorns has some companies canceling or postponing their IPOs and considering other alternatives for raising money and getting that coveted ticker symbol. Here are the other routes companies are taking to go public — and how they stack up to a traditional IPO.


First, let’s look at the Wall Street status quo. An IPO is how virtually every big publicly traded company gets on stock exchanges like the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the National Association of Securities Dealers (Nasdaq). (Another stock exchange may be coming soon.)

The IPO has been around since the dawn of the stock markets, but after a peak of more than 300 IPOs a year in the ’90s, we’ve seen close to 100 IPOs per year, on average, over the past two decades. Part of that is due to regulatory changes that allowed companies to have a larger number of private shareholders (up to nearly 2,000) and…