The UX of the IPO Ceremony


I am the first non-founder employee (2007) and head of user experience at Marketo.  A few days ago, I had the pleasure of experiencing the Marketo IPO ceremony in NYC at Nasdaq.  It was the first company I have ever worked at that went public.  It’s rare and may be a once-in-a-lifetime occurrence for me. (Hopefully, I will be able to do it again one day)  Here are some highlights of the trip.

Times Square
I lived in Manhattan from 1994-1999.  Times Square has undergone a massive transformation since then.  It has become the Vegas Strip meets Disney Land.  It is a tourist bonanza 24/7 with costumed characters all over and mega advertisements and screens.  I could not believe how crowded it was at 11pm on a Thursday night.  All tourists, no locals, except Broadway actors, I suppose.

Roxy Deli
My god, how big does a sandwich need to be?  I had a reuben, which is corned beef, Swiss cheese and sauerkraut.  It was so big, I couldn’t finish it.  For those of you who have never eaten with me, I can down a massive amount of food.  But this was over the top.  The sandwich costs $28.  The stupid thing is that if they would have given me a normal portion, I would have ordered a cheesecake desert.  Insanity.  Tasted great though.  Matzo ball soup was delicious.

The W Hotel
I have an idea:  Let’s make a hotel that is more like a dance club with loud music!  This appeals to plenty of people, just not me.  I prefer a hotel where they pamper you with luxurious accommodations, not a disco with flashing pink neon lights.  The room’s window faced times square.  I found this a problem because, no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t black out the windows while I slept.  There was bright light around the edges.  I am sure the W Hotel can figure out a solution to this problem, but it kept me awake.

The Nasdaq Experience
In reality, there are no more trading floors.  What I saw in Ferris Beuller’s Day Off or Trading Places doesn’t really happen anymore.  It’s all computers in New Jersey doing the trading.  I could imagine the executive conversation at Nasdaq.

Sales VP: Hey Joe, people are choosing the NYSE because they can ring the bell in the morning. It’s a fun ritual.  We need something to compete with that.

Marketing VP: No problem, we will create something awesome in Times Square with big signs.  We will create a memorable experience!

It was all carefully staged. They first take your picture in front of a green screen. (Just like Junior Prom in High School)  Then move you to the next room where you are in a TV studio looking thing.  The windows to the outside are just like Good Morning America, except no one has placards.  There take lots and lots of pictures, sort of like a wedding.

Here is where it got strange.  I’ll try to explain it in number form:

  1. My picture was taken with some colleagues at the podium.
  2. They said, “Look at this tv” – it was a live feed of the giant screen on the outside of the building, which had our picture on it.nasdaqScreen
  3. The whole experience was being live cast to Marketo HQ, so one of the video cameras of the webcast pointed at the TV inside of the picture outside.
  4. Someone at the office took a picture of the TV where they were showing the webcast.
  5. They then emailed it to me.
  6. So I was looking at:
    1. An email on my phone showing
    2. A picture of a TV showing
    3. A live video of a TV showing
    4. A giant screen outside the Nasdaq building  showing
    5. A picture of me, Scott and Wei

How strangely circular it felt.

While we were waiting to push the button, they brought in about 40 Chinese tourists.  No one was sure why, but they added to the excitement somehow.  They were all taking our pictures.

The music was carefully chosen.  It made us feel like the moment was special.  It was instrumental, like Chariots of Fire, but more toned down.  As we got closer to the opening bell, the music got more more and more amp’d up.  It was totally manipulative, but it was working like a charm.  I felt like the “moment” was upon us.  It felt special, despite knowing how the music was affecting me.

Finally, we got on stage, counted down from 10 and confetti popped!  Yay! Clap!  Ok everyone, off the stage, let’s go in the other room.

After the Button
When you go public, you don’t start trading your stock when you “press the button”.  You have to wait a couple of hours.  So they fed us breakfast while we watched our pictures on the screens across Times Square.  They were positioned quite carefully.  We (eating breakfast) were the intended audience.  They wanted to give us an exciting and big experience.

Eventually, they moved us into another room.  It started to feel like a ride in Disney Land.  I imagined another IPO getting started with the green screen prom pictures as we entered the final room.

We had several false starts and then started trading before noon.  They had a floor-to-ceiling screen to show us the first trade.  We cheered, we hugged, we shook hands, we toasted, then we left.

Going public is a big milestone for a company.  It is a measure of success.  In my mind, we are just getting started.  We are going to put a dent in the universe and create a great lasting company that changes people’s lives.  This milestone is a good time to reflect, but I for one am charging into the future.  The ceremony achieved its purpose.  It created drama and excitement.  If you have the chance to attend an event like this, I would strongly recommend it.

There was one picture that really touched me.  It was one of the headquarters in California.  They arrived at 6am.  This inspires me to new heights.  We have a value at Marketo of “One Team”.  This really made me feel that value was strong.  Thanks to everyone who got us here and to everyone who will get us to that next level and beyond!


6 replies on “The UX of the IPO Ceremony”

Awesome Glen. I’m glad you got to experience an IPO, sounds like it was a really cool experience.

Great post Glen! I’m a big fan of you, your work and your blog! Seems like it was a magical experience, Congratulations on the IPO, over to bigger things 🙂

Congratulations, sounded like an awesome experience. I especially enjoyed the part about the music build to a crescendo. I’m really curious about the size of the Reuben sandwich, as I am well aware of the damages you can do to a plate of pastas.

Congrats, Glen! Great post – so nice to hear about you and your company’s success. All the best with the IPO.

Thanks for this post capturing the experience. I’m so glad you could be there! And I too love the photo of everyone in the office.

Here’s to hoping it can all happen again for you, one day!

Whatya think?