Lyft is wildly unprofitable and lost $911 million last year — here's how other unprofitable companies fared after they went public

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Lyft went public Friday at a valuation of more than $20 billion despite racking up a loss in excess of $900 million in 2018. The company is just the first in a series of unprofitable “unicorns,” or privately held tech companies, with valuations north of $1 billion that are thinking about going public this year.

Those include ride-sharing rival Uber, which lost $1.8 billion in 2018, and Pinterest, which recorded a loss of $63 million for the year. Both companies are preparing to file for their initial public offerings, with Uber’s IPO scheduled for as early as next month.

The 2018 IPO market was extremely receptive to money-losing firms. According to data from University of Florida professor Jay Ritter, over 80% of companies that went public in 2018 were unprofitable. The trend isn’t just limited to the tech and biotech sectors, with half of all IPO companies outside of those sectors reporting negative earnings.

The experience of several examples highlighted below shows the future of such firms is hard to predict. Money-losing Amazon, which went public in 1997, went on to deliver a return of more than 1,000 times for IPO investors.

Meanwhile heavily hyped companies such as Pets.com and Webvan declared bankruptcy within a few years of their IPOs as the dot-com bubble burst in 2001.

Here’s how six different companies who were losing money at the times of their IPO have fared:


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