Coming into Redfin’s public offering, I’d concluded that we live in a post-truth society. Our society has sometimes relegated science to opinion, and unwelcome news as fake. When different people have access to different information, democracy operates like an inefficient market, with policy mistakes taking longer to correct. It may be that a few people on the right or left prefer it this way but most don’t.
And it turns out that, the truth is still something our society is capable of producing, agreeing on, and avidly consuming. In the stock markets if not in the broader world, even the most ideological of hedge-fund kings insist on the most rigorous form of the truth: in a prospectus, in financial statements, in all the materials used to decide whether to buy a stock. Investments are the only realm where data can change people’s opinions in the time it takes to make a put or call. It’s just too clear-cut when you’re wrong to be any other way, and too expensive.
The rigor involved in ensuring that a company tells the exact truth to investors is why the diligence of a public offering is often depicted as a grind. Entrepreneurs are supposed to roll our eyes at the lawyers who insist on corroborating every marketing claim, at the accountants who track down every penny.
But what I felt in preparing for Redfin’s public offering was a slight sense of awe, at the rectitude and persnicketiness of Alan Smith’s and Jamie Evans’s Fenwick team, of Alan Hambelton’s Cooley team, of Don Heisler’s Deloitte team — and in some weird way, awe at the durability of civil society in America. No one ever said, “close enough,” or, “who’ll notice that.” The drive to get it right was as much an issue of professional pride as of legal liability.
It should be hard to go public. You should pause a moment before signing financial statements. You should feel the weight of having to tell the whole truth. Redfin is very grateful for our friends at Fenwick & West, Deloitte and Cooley for having helped us to do that.