After an IPO, zip codes close to a company's headquarters see certain home prices and consumer spending rise, while more new businesses and jobs are created. Photo via Pexels

A massive company announces plans to bring its headquarters to town, and the locals can't stop grumbling. The added traffic. The noise. The shifts in neighborhood routine as a giant new facility gets up and running.

Then the company files for an IPO.

Over the next two years, the traffic and dust may well be forgotten as residents watch their local economy transform. Anecdotal evidence suggests that the mere change in a company's listing status, along with the liquidity it brings its shareholders, can significantly influence local economies.

That was certainly the case with Facebook in 2012, when CEO Mark Zuckerberg helped create a thousand new millionaires and a dozen new billionaires. In the six months following Facebook's IPO, the newly rich drove up real estate prices in the San Francisco Bay area by more than 15 percent as their previously illiquid stock wealth became liquid. Two and a half decades earlier, Dell's 1988 IPO created "Dellionaires" who got rich off their shareholdings and promptly moved into McMansions in the Austin area, forever changing the city.

But were these spillover effects isolated incidents — or the norm? In a recent study, Rice Business professor Alexander W. Butler set out quantify the impact of spillover effects on local economies.

Collaborating with Larry Fauver of the University of Tennessee and Ioannis Spyridopoulos of American University, Butler found that Facebook's and Dell's impacts were not one-offs: IPOs typically spark significant positive spillovers in local economies. What's more, the team determined that it is the listing decision, rather than actual capital raising, that boosts local labor markets, business environments, consumer spending and real estate.

But why? An IPO doesn't create a new company. It does, however, generate significant liquidity for the firm, for employees and for other shareholders who go forth into the community to spend their new cash. Investors' wealth also rises if a firm's stock price climbs after listing, as does a firm's wealth as it raises new capital.

To be certain that it's not just a firm's raising of capital that causes these spillovers, Butler and his team also looked at the effects of seasoned equity offering (SEO) activity, which doesn't involve a change in a company's listing status. What they found is that the effect of SEOs on local economies is insignificant. So capital raising alone is not enough.

To reach their conclusions, Butler and his colleagues selected 1,365 zip codes that had at least one IPO between 1998 and 2015. (The years 1999, 2000 and 2003 were excluded due to a lack of income data at the zip code level.) They also identified zip codes that were two miles, five miles and ten miles from a newly public company's headquarters.

Then they compared their selected zip codes to control zip codes in the same county using a matching process to compare "apples to apples." The team compared figures such as changes in home prices, the number of new mortgages, zip code business patterns, credit card spending, and income and wages for the two years following an IPO.

Analyzing these data, they found that when an IPO occurs, each $10 million in proceeds leads to an extra 0.7 new businesses in the surrounding area and 41 new local jobs. And while the price of expensive homes in the newly public company's zip code didn't increase, the prices of expensive homes in other zip codes within two miles of headquarters did rise — by $3,900 for the average expensive home valued at $590,000.

Prices were also higher in zip codes two to five miles away from headquarters, but less so. Growth of home prices, they discovered, gets a boost after the lockup period ends and shareholders can sell their stock, supporting the hypothesis that changes in investor liquidity cause that spillover. Further evidence of this came when they found that home prices climb even more when a firm's stock price jumps after the IPO.

But IPOs are not all good news for communities. Findings also showed IPO activity increases the odds that middle- to lower-income residents may have to move to lower-income zip codes. In the years following Facebook's IPO, workers in the Bay area such as police officers, teachers and firefighters were priced out of the housing market and relegated to long commutes to work.

Facebook has taken notice. The Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a charitable foundation Zuckerberg cofounded with his wife, Priscilla Chan, has donated $3.6 million toward the city's housing crisis.

As future companies go public, leaders could be well served to recognize Butler's team's findings. Yes, when their firm gains better access to financial markets, they're really are helping lift up the local economy — just not everyone who's living in it.

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This article originally ran on Rice Business Wisdom and is based on research from Alexander W. Butler, a professor of finance at Jones Graduate School of Business at Rice University.

John Berger, CEO of Houston-based Sunnova, is this week's Houston Innovators Podcast guest. Courtesy of Sunnova

Houston solar energy exec shines light on company growth and IPO

HOUSTON INNOVATORS PODCAST EPISODE 15

It was all about the timing for John Berger, founder and CEO of Sunnova, a Houston-based residential solar energy company.

When he founded his company in 2012 in Houston, solar energy wasn't the trendy sustainability option it is today, but Berger saw the potential for technology within the industry. So, with a lot of perseverance and the right team behind him, he scaled Sunnova through nationwide expansion, billions of money raised, and a debut on the stock market last July — something that also happened with great timing.

About 72 hours after Sunnova went public last July, the Federal Reserve System announced it was going to cut rates. Additionally, Sunnova's IPO occurred ahead of WeWork's failed IPO.

"We went public in a market that still isn't back open again, I think, for IPOs," Berger says on this week's episode of the Houston Innovators Podcast. "We had pretty good timing when we went out the door."

However great the timing was, Sunnova's success is built on the hard work and skills of the company's employees, Berger explains on the podcast, and now running a public company requires a dynamic leader.

"I really look at myself and how I can change myself," Berger says. "I'm a different CEO today than I was 12 months ago, and hopefully I'll be a different CEO in 12 months, because the company demands it."

In the episode, Berger lifts the curtain on Sunnova's IPO, explains where he sees the solar energy industry headed, how battery storage technology has evolved, and why he's not worried about who ends up in the White House. Listen to the full episode below — or wherever you get your podcasts — and subscribe for weekly episodes.


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Houston SaaS startup closes $12M series A funding round with support from local VC

money moves

A Houston startup with a software-as-a-service platform for the energy transition has announced it closed a funding round with participation from a local venture capital.

Molecule closed its $12 million series A, and Houston-based Mercury Fund was among the company's investors. The company has a cloud-based energy trading and risk management solution for the energy industry and supports power, natural gas, crude/refined products, chemicals, agricultural commodities, softs, metals, cryptocurrencies, and more.

"We led the seed round of Molecule upon their formation and are excited to participate in their series A," says Blair Garrou, co-founder and managing director of Mercury, in a news release. "Molecule's success in the ETRM/CTRM industry, especially in relation to electricity and renewables, positions them as the company to beat for the energy transition in the 2020s."

The company will use its new funds to further build out its product as well as introduce offerings to manage renewables credits, according to the release.

"In 2020, we realized that electricity — the growth commodity of the 2020s — represented over half of Molecule's customer base, and we decided to double down," says Sameer Soleja, founder and CEO of Molecule, in the release. "We were also rated the No. 1 SaaS ETRM/CTRM vendor. With this fundraise, we have the fuel to become No. 1 SaaS platform for power and renewables, and then the market leader overall.

"Molecule is ready to power the energy transition," Soleja continues.

Molecule's last round of funding closed in November 2014. The $1.1 million seed round was supported by Mercury Fund and the Houston Angel Network.

Houston-based afterlife planning startup launches new app

there's an app for that

The passing of a loved one is followed with grief — and paperwork. A Houston company that's simplifying the process of afterlife planning and decision making is making things even easier with a new smartphone app.

The Postage, a digital platform meant to ease with affair planning, recently launched a mobile app to make the service more accessible following a particularly deadly year. The United States recorded 3.2 million fatalities — the most deaths in its history, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic.

After losing three family members back-to-back, Emily Cisek dealt first hand with the difficulty of wrapping up a loved one's life. She saw how afterlife planning interrupted her family's grieving and caused deep frustration. Soon, she began to envision a solution to help people have a plan and walk through the process of losing someone.

The Postage, which launched in September, provides a platform for people to plan their affairs and leave behind wishes for loved ones. The website includes document storage and organization, password management, funeral and last wishes planning, and the option to create afterlife messages to posthumously share with loved ones.

"Right now, as it stands ahead of this app, end-of-life planning is really challenging. It's this daunting thing you have to sit down and do at your computer," says Cisek. Not only is it "daunting," but it's time-consuming. According to The Postage, families can expect to spend nearly 500 hours on completing end-of-life details if there is no planning done in advance.

With more than 74 percent of The Postage's web traffic coming from mobile users, an app was a natural progression. In fact, Entrepreneur reports the average person will spend nine years on their mobile device. Cisek wanted to meet users where they are at with a user-friendly app that includes the same features as the desktop website.

"What we wanted to do [with the app] is make it so easy to plan your life and the end of your life using one click — as easy as it was for posting and commenting on social media," explains Cisek. "People are so used to reflecting on those behaviors and clicking one button to add a picture ... we wanted to make it that simple," she continued.

Cisek and her team focused on providing a "seamless experience" within the app, which took approximately four months to build, which mirrors the desktop platform.

Though The Postage's website had mobile functionality, the app includes the ability to record and upload content. Whether snapping a picture of their insurance policy or recording a video to share with loved ones, The Postage app allows users to capture photos and videos directly within the app.

After snapping a picture, "the next step inherently is sharing it with your loved ones," says Cisek. Photos, family recipes and videos can easily be shared securely with loved ones who accept your invitation to The Postage so "that legacy continues on," she says.

Since The Postage's fall launch, the company has grown a steady base of paid subscribers with plans to expand.

"We're really starting to change the way people plan for the future," says Cisek.