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Richard Drew, Associated Press

How does a company go public?

By Liesl Nielsen,  |  Posted May 18th, 2018 @ 3:35pm



SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s Pluralsight went public Thursday, becoming the second local tech company in recent years to do so. The cloud-based learning platform is also most likely the first in a series of local tech companies to go public within the next year and a half.

So what does it take for a company to go public?

“Going public” usually refers to a private company’s decision to undertake its initial public offering, or IPO. This means that a company will sell shares of stock to the public, often to raise more money. Once a company goes public, it’s required to be transparent about its financials and other details, according to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

If your company is going public, here’s what you'll do, according to Investopedia:

  1. 1. Get the board on board: You’ll first need approval from the company’s board of directors. Discuss the business’ goals, objectives, financials etc., then explain to the board why you think the company should enter the public market. If the board says yes, you can move forward.

  2. 2. Assemble a team: You’ll need a capable team, including a securities lawyer and an accounting firm.

  3. 3. Review financials: You’ll review your company’s financials from the past five years and make sure they comply with generally accepted accounting principles. This is where your accounting firm will come in handy.

  4. 4. Find an investment bank and send a letter of intent: You’ll need to choose an investment bank to be an underwriter — essentially someone who buys a certain number of shares at a predetermined price and resells them through an exchange. In reality, there will probably be more than one bank doing this. Send a letter of intent to the banks to decide on fees, offering size, price ranges and other things.

  5. 5. Draft a prospectus: The security lawyers and accountants will prepare a prospectus, which is a document that you’ll give to investors as a selling document and a legal disclosure document. The prospectus will include a lot of details about the company, including the management structure, transactions, shareholders, financials etc.

  6. 6. Company examination: The investment bank and accountants will review the company’s management, operations, financials, performance, labor force, customers and much more to determine if there need to be any changes made to the prospectus.

  7. 7. Present prospectus to the SEC: This is known as “filing to go public.” Your company will give a preliminary prospectus to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commision, and the commission will let you know if something more needs to be disclosed or changed.

  8. 8. Syndication: After you file with the SEC, your investment bank will create a “syndicate” of other investment banks which will sell portions of the offering to investors. This process will help the banks decide on a price range for your shares based on demand.

  9. 9. Road show: Put on a show for potential investors and analysts. Tell them about your company, its financial condition, operations, performance etc. They’ll ask you questions. Be prepared.

  10. 10. Final prospectus: You’ll need to revise your prospectus if the SEC says so, but once you do, the SEC will declare your registration effective and the company can “go to print.”

  11. 11. Decide offering and price of shares: The day before you go public, your investment banks will decide the size of your offering and the price of the shares you’ll be selling, based on demand.

  12. 12. Printing: You’ll send your final prospectus to a printer familiar with the SEC’s regulations.

  13. 13. Ring the opening bell: Officially start selling your stock by ringing the opening bell at the New York Stock Exchange, NASDAQ or wherever you’re selling.

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Liesl Nielsen,
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