What is it like to ring the opening bell at Nasdaq and IPO?

A Wedding

This past Friday I joined 50 of my fellow co-workers at Zscaler to ring the opening bell at Nasdaq and observe our shares being traded on the public stock market for the first time.  The president of Nasdaq described the events of the day as similar to a wedding along with photographers, people directing you where to go, energy, and lots of well wishes.  While directionally correct I would like to clarify his comparison.  It is more like being at a wedding where you are the proud parents of the bride to be.
You have invested time in raising your child and you hope things go well but it is now out of your control.  You are not the focus of the attention but you are a part of it.  You are told where to stand and walk.  You sneak away like a little kid to take pictures and selfies.  You are hugging everyone in sight and congratulating them and they are congratulating you

The Legal Fine Print

When you move towards an IPO there are a lot of legal issues and concerns around privacy, insider trading, and ensuring all is smooth.  Therefore things can get very hectic towards that IPO day and in fact up until the night before the official day the IPO itself isn’t set in stone.  That makes it hard to nail down travel plans or let your wife know what type of clothes she should pack.
So what is the experience like?  When prepping for the experience I couldn’t find out much information online so I will do my best to detail it here.

The Night Before IPO and all through the house not a creature was stirring not even a…

Customer?  At Zscaler our customers are a critical part of our success.  They have driven our product and vision and as such we wanted to include them in the festivities.  The night before we sponsored a Customer Appreciation Dinner where our board of directors and executive team hosted customers who have been with us since the beginning as well as recent additions.  A great opportunity to get to know our champions and sponsors outside of a negotiation or post sales support issue.

The Night Cap

The one downside to the customer event was that our team had planned to have a group dinner at the same time.   After the customer dinner our COO and myself swung by the other restaurant to meet up with the team (and my lovely wife who attended our team dinner in my place).  A glass of wine and back to the Marriott Marquis hotel for a final night cap.  That is when all the various groups and teams started to trickle in and come together.  A few glasses of wine, some reflections on our journey so far, how lucky we were to be there together, some fun hazing (and maybe a few more beverages for the extra courageous).   Around midnight Julie and I went up to bed.  As I was about to turn in for the night I turned to her “I hope I don’t oversleep tomorrow.”   We both set an alarm just to be safe.

7:00 AM its go time

IMG_2247Get up, get ready, suit up!  We are meeting at the lobby of the Marriott so that we can walk across Times Square to the Nasdaq building as a group.  While the folks from the West Coast tried to wake up (it was 4am for us) we mingled around to chat and say hello to team members we don’t get to see everyday.  You of course have the few people who had the extra beverages the night before oversleep but in true team fashion we have their back and call to wake them up.
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7:30 AM – its Cold Out There!

IMG_8414We walk across Times Square before the crowds have formed and the Sun has a chance to warm things up.  None of us know what we are doing other than we go should go to the Nasdaq building.  What do we do when we get there?  “Just do what I did when I was underage at a bar.  Just walk in the front door like you belong there.”  In the front door we go and walk up to the security guard.  “Hello, we are from zscaler and we are here to ring the bell”.  I mean… what else would you say?  “Photo ID’s please” was the only response and through the door we go.  You mingle around the lobby for a bit without clear direction of exactly what you should be doing until about 15 minutes later when a woman with a headset lets us know we can go upstairs and brings us up an elevator.

8:00 AM There is always time for Bacon

We are brought to what looks like a TV studio with an adjoining breakfast area and stage/lecturn.  Some of us take the liberty to walk up on stage and start taking photos.  Others go for bacon.  Some of us go for bacon and eat it on stage.   Eat up!  Mingle!  Eventually groups start to form and a professional photographer starts taking photos.

8:45 AM Master of Ceremonies

The president of Nasdaq joins us and describes the agenda for the day.  We find out that our offices all around the world are having parties and we are being webcast globally.  As we look behind there are video cameras moving and following us.  After a short speech the President gives way to our CEO and Founder Jay Chaudhry who gives a short speech to our global team.
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9:00 AM Move to the Studio

IMG_2340We are then herded downstairs to a TV Studio with glass walls facing Times Square.   It looks like anyone out there can watch the opening ceremony.  It is a round room surrounded by cameras.  The back wall has TV screens with famous brands and their stocks on Nasdaq.

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We are advised that the CEO and Family will be at the podium, followed by the board, followed by the exec team, and then everyone else fills in  from there.  We do a practice run with lots of cheering.  It is recorded and will be used for Social Media.  In the meantime our group is packed in tight being goofy and marveling at the experience.
A couple more speeches and we are brought back on stage minutes later.  We are told to cheer… and cheer… and cheer for minutes.  The louder we are the more likely the news stations will pick us up and broadcast.  We see the TVs and they are all showing the various channels.  Eventually all 4 news stations pick us up and before we know it 7…..6….5…. (what happened to 10, 9 , and 8?) 4…. 3….. 2….. 1….. confetti!!!! That was a blur!

9:45 AM – Outside we go!

We are ushered directly outside into Times Square where the buildings all around us have our zscaler logo emblazoned on them.  My wife Julie is out there watching along with a number of team members who either live in NYC or were in town for customer meetings.  We move into the square for professional photos as a group in front of the Nasdaq and Times Square screens.  As we all marvel and cheer I catch photos of our team start to show up on the big screen.  One of my favorite parts was being able to snap photos of all of us as the pictures flipped through.

10:00 – Its Champagne time!

Back inside we go.  Now that the ceremonies are over our wives, husbands, and other team members can come inside to join us.  Or at least we snuck them in.   Champagne is served and we walk around a big room split in half.  One half has cocktail tables and windows that look out onto Times Square.  The other half has people at their desks working with multiple screens.  Our new master of ceremonies Jeff joins us and explains what to expect.  Our shares were all purchased the evening before by the banks.  The banks will now start taking buy and sell orders to try and match things together before officially allowing a trade.  The goal is the allow a smooth start without volatility.  He warns us that because there was a lot of interest it may take awhile to get an initial price and then trade.  While we wait we get distracted by fancy screens with pictures of us on them that we can touch and get emailed to ourselves.  Cameras are every where.  I find out we are being live-streamed when people keep texting me screen shots of me doing stupid things.

10:10…

Jeff comes back and lets us know that some guy named Jay is working with the banks to settle on pricing and trades.

10:15…

Jeff comes back and lets us know that some guy named Jay is working with the banks to settle on pricing and trades.

10:20…

Jeff comes back and lets us know that some guy named Jay is working with the banks to settle on pricing and trades.

10:25…

Jeff comes back and lets us know that some guy named Jay is working with the banks to settle on pricing and trades.

10:30…

Jeff comes back and lets us know that some guy named Jay is working with the banks to settle on pricing and trades.
We finally figure out who Jay is and some of us mingle over to look over his shoulder and see whats up.  It is very cool how we could just stand over his shoulder as he took the calls and worked the phones.  All while drinking champagne.

10:35…

Jeff comes back and lets us know that some guy named Jay is working with the banks to settle on pricing and trades.

10:36…

Jeff comes back and lets us know that we finally have an “Indicative Price”…..  holy crap!

10:40

We get our first public trade!  The price is set. CHEERS everywhere!!!

11:00 AM

Wow.  We are all so proud.  Pictures continue.  We have been on social media lockdown for weeks, but now we can share our excitement.  Onto Linkedin and Facebook we go!  We get to see all of the excitement finally from all around the world.  We had a feeling of being sequestered.  Our legal and finance team did a great job of putting the fear into us not to do anything that could be construed as inappropriate.

A favorite picture of mine came from my little sister who is studying finance in college and now thinks her big brother is kinda cool:

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11:15 AM

Things start to calm down and we all head to a nearby restaurant for a wrap up lunch.  All of us but our CEO Jay who has 20+ more interviews to do.

3:55 PM

Some texts to remote team members.  The day end. All of us emotional and proud.  Until tomorrow when there is more email to do and a Customer Advisory Board in the UK on Monday and in Germany on Wednesday.
As a final note, I apologize for the lack of updates to this blog.  About 5 months ago Zscaler formed a new organization called Customer Success and I left the SE Leader role to lead that global group.  I was not quite sure what I would do with this blog since it would be the first time in years I would not be an “SE”.  However, I do own the domain CSThoughts.com and will likely have that forward to here.  As I have reviewed my previous posts they are more about technical management and not just about sales engineering.

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