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What is Going Public? Process, Pros & Cons

Last updated 03/19/2024 by

Alessandra Nicole

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Fact checked by

Going public, or conducting an initial public offering (IPO), is the process through which a privately held company offers shares to the public for the first time, thereby transitioning into a publicly traded entity. This comprehensive guide explores the intricacies of going public, from the initial stages of board approval to the final steps of determining the offering price. It delves into the key considerations, steps involved, and the pros and cons associated with this significant financial milestone.
In the realm of finance, the decision to go public marks a pivotal moment in the life cycle of a company. An initial public offering (IPO) not only represents an opportunity for the company to raise capital but also entails a series of intricate steps and considerations. Let’s embark on a detailed exploration of the process of going public, dissecting each stage and shedding light on its nuances.

Understanding going public

Going public, often synonymous with an IPO, involves the transition of a privately held company to a publicly traded entity. This strategic move enables the company to offer its shares to a broader spectrum of investors, thereby expanding its shareholder base and potentially increasing its access to capital.

The process of going public

Board approval

The journey to going public commences with a proposal presented to the company’s board of directors. This proposal, crafted by the management team, outlines the rationale for pursuing an IPO, including the company’s growth prospects, financial performance, and strategic objectives. Following thorough deliberation, the board decides whether to greenlight the IPO process.

Assemble team

Upon obtaining board approval, the company embarks on assembling a team of professionals to navigate the complexities of the IPO journey. This interdisciplinary team typically includes legal advisors, accounting firms, investment banks, and other relevant stakeholders. Each member of the team plays a pivotal role in ensuring the seamless execution of the IPO process.

Review and restate financials

One of the critical steps in preparing for an IPO is the review and restatement of the company’s financial statements. This rigorous process involves auditing and validating financial data to ensure compliance with regulatory standards and accounting principles. Any discrepancies or irregularities must be addressed and rectified to instill confidence in prospective investors.

Letter of intent with investment bank

With the groundwork laid, the company selects an investment bank to underwrite the IPO and issues a letter of intent formalizing the engagement. The investment bank plays a pivotal role in structuring the offering, pricing the shares, and facilitating the marketing and distribution process.

Draft prospectus

A cornerstone of the IPO process is the drafting of the prospectus, a comprehensive document that provides prospective investors with insights into the company’s business model, financial performance, and growth prospects. The prospectus serves as a legal disclosure document and marketing tool, outlining key information such as the company’s management team, competitive landscape, and intended use of proceeds.

Due diligence

Prior to proceeding with the IPO, the company undergoes a rigorous due diligence process, wherein its operations, financial performance, and regulatory compliance are thoroughly scrutinized. This process, conducted by the company’s legal and financial advisors, aims to identify and mitigate potential risks and liabilities, ensuring transparency and regulatory compliance.

Preliminary prospectus

Once the prospectus is drafted, a preliminary version is filed with the relevant regulatory authorities, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). This preliminary prospectus provides prospective investors with an initial overview of the offering, including key terms and risk factors. Regulatory authorities may provide feedback or request additional disclosures before granting approval.


As the IPO progresses, the lead underwriter collaborates with a syndicate of investment banks to facilitate the marketing and distribution of the offering. The syndicate leverages its network and expertise to engage with prospective investors, generate interest in the offering, and maximize demand for the company’s shares.


A pivotal component of the IPO process is the roadshow, wherein company executives and investment bankers embark on a series of meetings with prospective investors. During the roadshow, management presents the company’s investment thesis, growth strategy, and financial outlook, while investors have the opportunity to ask questions and assess the company’s prospects.

Prospectus finalization

Following the roadshow, the prospectus undergoes final revisions based on feedback from regulatory authorities and prospective investors. Once the prospectus is deemed complete and compliant, it is finalized and distributed to investors in preparation for the offering.

Determining the offer

In the final stages of the IPO process, the offering price is determined based on various factors, including market conditions, investor demand, and the company’s valuation. The investment bank provides recommendations on pricing and allocation, aiming to strike a balance between maximizing proceeds for the company and ensuring a successful market debut.


Once the offering price is set, the final prospectus is sent to an experienced financial printer for printing and distribution to investors. The printing process must adhere to regulatory requirements and quality standards to ensure the accurate and timely dissemination of information.

Here is a list of the benefits and the drawbacks to consider.
  • Access to capital markets for fundraising
  • Enhanced liquidity for existing shareholders
  • Increased visibility and credibility
  • Potential for liquidity events such as mergers and acquisitions
  • Regulatory compliance and reporting obligations
  • Loss of control and management autonomy
  • Pressure to meet quarterly financial targets
  • Potential for shareholder activism

Frequently asked questions

What is the role of the lead underwriter in an IPO?

The lead underwriter plays a crucial role in structuring the offering, pricing the shares, and facilitating the marketing and distribution process. They collaborate with a syndicate of investment banks to engage with prospective investors and maximize demand for the company’s shares.

How long does the IPO process typically take?

The IPO process can vary in duration depending on various factors such as regulatory approval timelines, market conditions, and the complexity of the company’s operations. On average, the
process can take anywhere from six months to over a year to complete.

What are some key considerations for companies contemplating an IPO?

Companies considering an IPO should carefully evaluate factors such as their growth prospects, financial performance, regulatory compliance, and readiness for public scrutiny. It is essential to assess the potential benefits and drawbacks of going public and ensure adequate preparation and planning before embarking on the IPO journey.

Key takeaways

  • Going public entails the transition of a privately held company to a publicly traded entity, enabling access to capital markets and enhanced liquidity.
  • The IPO process encompasses various stages, including board approval, assembling a team of advisors, drafting the prospectus, and conducting due diligence.
  • Companies considering an IPO should weigh the potential benefits of increased access to capital and visibility against the regulatory compliance requirements and loss of control associated with going public.

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