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Why Beyond Meat shares jumping 163% in its IPO debut isn't that insane: early VC investor

Shares in vegan meat startup Beyond Meat (BYND) skyrocketed 163% Thursday in what marked the best major public debut for any company since 2000, according to Dealogic. Shares continued their run Friday, clocking a 9% gain at Friday’s open.

Demand for shares in the rapidly growing El Segundo, Calif.-based company was already made evident by the fact the company raised the price range for shares in its oversubscribed initial public offering before pricing at the high end of its revised range at $25.

That price level was quickly eclipsed when shares reached an opening intraday high of $71.30, which put the company’s market cap at more than $4.1 billion. But Beyond Meat CEO Ethan Brown told Yahoo Finance Thursday he won’t be checking the company’s share performance.

For a company that posted a net loss of nearly $30 million and only $87.9 million in revenue during its latest fiscal year, that valuation is certainly worthy of a double take. Just to compare, Beyond Meat’s price-to-sales multiple of 40 would be closer to that of Zoom (ZM), 2019’s other hottest IPO, which reached profitability before going public and now trades at a price-to-sales multiple of about 55. Lyft (LYFT), which has stumbled out of the gate since going public since its March debut, now trades around a multiple of 7.

Beyond Meat shares were trading at a peak of 40-times last year's sales in the company's public debut.
Beyond Meat shares were trading at a peak of 40-times last year's sales in the company's public debut.

However, it’s worth noting that out of all those names, Beyond Meat boasts the largest year-over-year sales growth for any of those newly minted public unicorns at an impressive clip of 169%. Zoom’s and Lyft’s growth rates pale in comparison at 118% and 100%, respectively. That fact, coupled with the size of the market opportunity, could be why the company shot out of the gate so fast, according to early Beyond Meat investor and Lever VC founder Nick Cooney.

“A higher multiple speaks to the pent up demand on the part of investors,” he said. “Beyond Meat’s growth rate is phenomenal and I think that is indeed part of the reason why investors are open to paying a higher multiple.”

It’s all about quality

For Cooney, who invested in Beyond Meat through a prior firm in 2015 and now focuses on investing in meat-alternative startups, finding companies producing on a similar quality scale can be difficult.

“There’s a reason that Beyond and Impossible Foods are going into restaurants that others haven’t, and I think it’s simply because they have a better product,” he said. “The research and development that’s gone into this is significant.”

Source: Yahoo Finance
Source: Yahoo Finance

Beyond Meat counts restaurants Carl’s Jr., Del Taco, and TGI Friday’s as its major restaurant partners while Impossible Foods just recently sealed a national rollout of its burgers at Burger King.

“If you look at Beyond Meat and Impossible [Foods] together as the two noteworthy companies, they still represent a fairly small market share for these products,” he said. “Beyond Meat went from 1,000 points of sale to being in tens of thousands and there’s no reason to be in four- or five-times that number a couple of years from now.”

That said, the largest opening day rally in 11 years of IPOs might warrant some pause on the part of retail investors looking to jump in. Cooney mentions that for any investment in the space, regardless of the company, finding the right time to invest and the right time to pull the trigger is crucial.

“When we’re looking at companies and deciding to invest, the sales multiple is one of the things we’re looking very closely at,” he said. “And just like every company out there, some will be competitively priced and some wildly overhyped.”

Zack Guzman is the host of YFi PM as well as a senior writer and on-air reporter covering entrepreneurship, startups, and breaking news at Yahoo Finance. Follow him on Twitter @zGuz.

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