One of last month's most promising IPOs is on the verge of becoming a broken IPO. Shares of Upwork (UPWK 0.19%) closed at a record low on Monday, if you can call a seven-week tenure as a public company long enough to talk about highs and lows.
Stocks have been correcting sharply in recent weeks. The S&P 500 is down 8% since Upwork's trading debut, and Wall Street loves to toss the baby IPOs out with the dirty bathwater. A disappointing third quarter -- Upwork's first time to shine as a public company -- obviously isn't helping. Upwork stock is another rough trading day away from falling below its $15 IPO price. Let's go over the reasons why it will bounce back.
1. The market rewards steady performers
Upwork's stock chart may be a jarring portrait of volatility, but the leading online marketplace for freelancers is serving up steady growth. Revenue rose 23% for all of 2017, and even though the pace picked up to 28% through the first half of this year we retreated back to the creature comforts of 23% growth in the third quarter. Guidance calls for a 20% to 23% top-line increase in the current quarter.
We're not just talking about year-over-year consistency. Even if it lands at the low end of its guidance for the current quarter, we're talking about at least seven straight quarters of sequential growth. The streak is likely longer, but we don't have the quarterly breakdowns before 2017.
2. Freelancing is here to stay
The gig economy is giving car owners, pet sitters, and grocery pickers new ways to make money, but for folks with marketable white-collar skills, there's a booming realm of opportunity waiting Upwork's digital door. The networking effect is in play here. Freelancers go where the qualified positions are being posted, and vice versa.
Core clients -- those spending at least $5,000 on the platform with active spending over the past year -- have risen 22% to 101,000 in the third quarter, with client spend retention rate topping 100%. Freelancing is a win-win where an employer can save on corporate overhead of full-time hires while the freelancer can enjoy the freedom of working on his or her schedule.
3. It's the trade tariff antidote
A part of Upwork's model that isn't getting a lot of play in this climate where protectionism and trade tariffs are stirring up headlines is that Upwork is the great leveler. A whopping 72% of the revenue generated in the third quarter came from U.S. clients, but just 25% of the work was completed by stateside freelancers.
Upwork is giving companies a way to save money by seamlessly finding international specialists that can get the jobs done. It's not something worth bragging about now, but there will come a time when protectionism and trade barriers ease and investors can openly sing the praises of Upwork's ability to fill roles worldwide.