Famous prospectus documents

The news of Uber’s upcoming historic IPO got us thinking about some of the most famous IPOs in recent history. We at Prospectus.com always find these to be interesting reads, providing insights on the formation and strategies of the biggest companies of our time.

Here’s a sampling of some of the biggest and best.

1. Alibaba ($21.8 billion, 2014)

Not many people know that Alibaba was the largest IPO in US history. This is an especially interesting piece of trivia given that it is not a US based company. Alibaba is “incorporated in the Cayman Islands and conduct substantially all of our operations in China”. This is why they filed an F-1 instead of an S-1.


2. Visa ($17.9 billion, 2008)

Most of you probably have a Visa in your wallet. So did many of your parents (in fact, they call out ‘Established and Long-Standing Customer Relationships’ as one of their top competitive strengths). It’s pretty amazing to think that they only went public in 2008. This is why they are the second largest IPO in US history. This prospectus provides and overview of how the credit card authorization, clearing and settlement process work (page 112). This process is a cornerstone of modern commerce.


3. Facebook ($16 billion, 2012)

How many of you remember when there was serious discussion on whether Facebook can effectively monetize on mobile. This risk factor says it all “Growth in use of Facebook through our mobile products, where we do not currently display ads, as a substitute for use on personal computers may negatively affect our revenue and financial results;”


4. General Motors ($15.8 billion, 2010)

I know what you’re thinking, General Motors IPO’d for more than Google, Amazon, and Netflix combined?? Yes they did, but this IPO was essentially General Motors re-listing after the downturn. Still, $15.8 billion is a lot of Escalades.


5. Google ($1.9 billion, 2004)

The first risk listed is: “We face significant competition from Microsoft and Yahoo.” I’d say they handled that risk pretty well.


6. Amazon ($438 million, 1997)

If you invested $1000 in Amazon at the time of it’s IPO, it would be worth more than $1.2 million today. That is absolutely amazing. Fun tidbit: there isn’t a single mention of ‘cloud’, ‘devices’, ‘robotics’, or ‘world domination’ in Amazon’s S-1 filing. Don’t believe me on the world domination part? Just repeat after me.. “Alexa, who is the world’s richest person?”. If you hear something back, then I rest my case 🙂


7. Netflix ($82.5 million, 2002)

Netflix IPO’d back when it was an online DVD rental portal. Fun tidbit, there isn’t a single mention of Netflix as a video streaming service. Reading the document today, it’s pretty incredible that the following risk was called out:



8. Tesla ($226.1 million, 2010)

The filing states “We are highly dependent on the services of Elon Musk, our Chief Executive Officer.” Very accurate, though there is no mention his Twitter account..


Sources: sec.gov, finra.org