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Reddit’s Soaring IPO: From Online Forums to $9.5 Billion Company

IPO
0 min read

The internet forum that helped launch the meme stock frenzy is now a multi-billion dollar public company itself. Reddit, the hugely popular online community made up of thousands of niche message boards, had a blockbuster stock market debut on Thursday.

Shares of Reddit, trading under the ticker RDDT on the New York Stock Exchange, skyrocketed 48% to close at $50.44, giving the company a lofty valuation of $9.5 billion. The explosive first day performance continues the hot streak for newly public tech companies in 2024 and underscores insatiable investor demand for businesses involved with artificial intelligence.

Reddit priced its initial public offering on Wednesday at $34 per share, raising around $750 million in the process with the company itself collecting $519 million. That IPO price was already at the top end of the expected range amid high demand, valuing Reddit at $6.5 billion on an exit from the private markets.

The robust valuation is a major achievement for Reddit, which was founded nearly 20 years ago in 2005 by the entrepreneur duo of Alexis Ohanian and current CEO Steve Huffman. For years, the site with its stark design and freewheeling discussion forums operated on a shoestring budget.

But Reddit’s popularity and influence exploded in recent years, fueled by the rise of viral meme culture and Internet subcultures. The company reported $804 million in revenue for 2023, up 20% from the prior year, as it started more aggressively monetizing the engaged audiences on its platform through advertising and other services.

While still unprofitable with a $90.8 million net loss last year, Reddit is now setting itself up as a major media and technology player by going public. It is the first major social platform to hit the public markets since Pinterest’s IPO in 2019.

“This is a huge milestone for Reddit and the team,” said CEO Steve Huffman, speaking to CNBC from the NYSE trading floor on the company’s debut day. “Our people and our community have built an internet culture that is now being embraced by the world.”

Reddit’s successful IPO provides an exit for some of the company’s longtime venture capital investors and big corporate backers like Tencent and Condé Nast’s parent company. But Huffman said Reddit also allocated a portion of shares in the IPO for its most devoted users and volunteer moderators who help run the site’s myriad discussion boards.

“The people make Reddit what it is,” said Huffman. “This is a chance for our most passionate folks to own a piece of that.”

Looking ahead, Reddit sees big growth potential in data licensing, particularly providing user content to artificial intelligence companies to train their language models and other software. The company revealed it has already inked data deals worth over $200 million in the next few years.

However, Reddit is facing a probe from the Federal Trade Commission over its practices of selling user data to AI firms. Regulators are examining whether proper disclosure was made to users about how their posts and comments would be monetized.

Privacy and safety issues are nothing new for Reddit, which has had to crackdown on toxic content and hate speech proliferating across its unruly message board communities. Huffman acknowledged those challenges, including the role Reddit played at the center of the meme stock mania that sent shares of GameStop and AMC soaring in bizarre market frenzies in 2021.

But as evidenced by its IPO haul, Reddit has still managed to attract both users and investors by providing an online home for all sorts of niche interests and subcultures to flourish – whether that’s stocks, cryptocurrencies, sports, hobbies, activism or adult content. And Reddit sees plenty of runway for growth by continuing to serve as the internet’s open marketplace of ideas.

“There are so many people around the world looking for their communities,” said Huffman. “We provide that, and we’re just getting started.”

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