On June 13, senior JPMorgan banker Noah Wintroub posted a message to his Twitter feed congratulating freelancing app Fiverr on its successful JPMorgan-led public offering. The tweet was similar to one he sent three months earlier after the bank successfully launched car-hailing app Lyft.
Yet Wintroub's Twitter feed was silent on Sept. 26, when Peloton's stock slumped 11% in its first day of trading. JPMorgan co-led the transaction with Goldman Sachs.
Wintroub's Twitter silence coincides with a difficult few months for the 20-year JPMorgan veteran, a key player in CEO Jamie Dimon's strategy to break the lock Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley have had on leading Silicon Valley's hottest IPOs. A busted mandate on WeWork's failed offering, in what's become a cautionary tale to other money-losing companies trying to go public, hasn't helped.
"He's in this world where JPMorgan has historically come from behind," a former JPMorgan banker said. "That was for years a thorn in their side."
JPMorgan isn't the only one dealing with tech IPOs that haven't performed, and most of the consumer internet sector has had a rough few months. Goldman Sachs, where Nick Giovanni leads the business, co-led Peloton's IPO. And Morgan Stanley and top tech banker Michael Grimes led the IPO for Uber, which has slumped 27% since it went public.
Wintroub, who was promoted from global head of internet banking to vice chairman in 2015, stands out for his role in WeWork's debacle, which featured two months of tumult defined by a plunging valuation, the founder's resignation and questions about the culpability of underwriters and investors. A JPMorgan spokeswoman declined to comment.
Learning HTML code
Wintroub has long been a booster for the transformative effects of technology. He took computer science classes as a student at Colgate University and learned HTML code to get his parents' business onto the internet, he told the school's alumni magazine in 2016. After graduating in 1998, he headed to Silicon Valley in the throes of the first tech boom.
In the early days as an analyst at famed San Francisco investment bank Hambrecht & Quist (one of the "Four Horsemen"), he toted around a laminated map of the rapidly expanding internet industry, according to Fortune, which named him to its 40 Under 40 list back in 2015.
By the time Chase Manhattan bought Hambrecht & Quist in 1999, the venerated investment bank was already falling behind Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, which could offer a fuller suite of services such as lending or wealth management.
For years, Wintroub would lag competitors in the high-profile business of taking hot internet startups public, missing lead left mandates — those that come with more cache, higher fees and a pole position to do later deals — on some of the biggest IPOs for companies like Facebook, Alibaba, Twitter, Snap, and Dropbox.
In the five years through 2018, JPMorgan secured just 26 lead left mandates for US tech IPOs, according to Dealogic. Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs claimed 64 and 56, respectively.
More recently, Wintroub's been at the forefront of a push to get more business. Dimon started spending more time in Silicon Valley and the bank began targeting specific companies where it hoped it could win the top mandate. Madhu Namburi and Jennifer Nason, among others, have also pitched in.
"Noah is an outstanding banker who has helped countless founders and CEOs successfully grow their businesses over the years," said Eric Stein, head of JPMorgan's investment banking practice in North America. "He's fiercely loyal to his clients and knows how to rally the entire firm around those clients when they face a challenging situation."
Jeans and Oxford shirts
Wintroub has at times been a polarizing personality inside JPMorgan, irritating colleagues with his casual dress, close relationships with early-stage entrepreneurs, and ability to navigate internal politics, according to a former colleague.
He mirrors Silicon Valley's dress code (preferring jeans and oxford shirts over suits and ties), way of greeting (often giving startup founders a hug) and design ethic (he lobbied JPMorgan execs to break down office hierarchies in favor of open office floor plans). The office plan annoyed some bankers who wanted to keep their offices.
He openly shares his enthusiasm for products and clients. He secured a role on a deal to sell a stake in Blue Bottle coffee to Nestle after telling an unknown stranger who turned out to be the CEO how much he loved the coffee chain; he cold called the Peloton CEO after buying a bike; and he went on record to tout the transformative effects of Sweetgreen's food business and WeWork founder Adam Neumann's magnetic charisma.
And Wintroub, who dons rimless glasses and posts photos online of himself running, maintains an unusually public profile on social media. He shares Twitter shout outs to clients such as Fiverr or Rent the Runway, writes about personal heartache on Medium or links to his favorite consumer brands on Pinterest. He also shares his political views, usually a no-no for client bankers.
'The best we had'
Yet even as some JPMorgan colleagues rolled their eyes, Wintroub brought in business. The bank became an adviser to Blue Bottle, Peloton, and WeWork, reaping tens of millions of dollars in fees and securing Wintroub's place among the bank's senior dealmakers. When WeWork ran into trouble, JPMorgan stood by the company and lined up rescue financing that the coworking company would later spurn.
"I don't think any of us know exactly what the right formula is to cover the 33-year-old billionaire," the former colleague said. "He was the best we had in terms of being able to penetrate that space."
His formula worked with Wix, the Israel-based website development platform, which Wintroub took public in 2013. Michael Eisenberg, the venture capitalist who's also close to WeWork's Adam Neumann, sat on the startup's board and introduced the founders to Wintroub, according to Nir Zohar, the COO and president. Zohar, who also sits on Fiverr's board, then put in a good word for Wintroub to take the freelancing app public, which he did this year.
Wintroub "tried to figure us out as people," Zohar said in an interview. "It's great to have someone who we can do honest business with and also really relate to on a personal level. That's not to be taken for granted."
Wintroub also proved adept at navigating JPMorgan's politics. He got close to Jimmy Lee, the legendary banker known to throw his weight behind his favorites and reel in some of the industry's largest deals. Wintroub introduced Lee around Silicon Valley and Fortune crowned Wintroub as Lee's "close protege."
The two would make a powerful pairing. With Lee getting internal sign off to wield JPMorgan's enormous balance sheet and Wintroub forging close ties to founders, the bank began to get traction.
An early deal was Facebook's 2012 IPO, where JPMorgan worked its way into the second spot on the IPO, beating out Goldman Sachs to be listed behind Morgan Stanley. The bank signed onto a loan the year before and Lee helped line up senior support across the bank to help Facebook on HR matters and private banking services. Wintroub played a role too. JPMorgan would later use a similar strategy to earn a place on other deals, such as Bloom Energy's IPO and WeWork's failed offering. Lee died unexpectedly in 2015.
In WeWork, Wintroub's enthusiasm may have clouded his vision, according to a rival banker who pitched for the same mandate. In January, the Financial Times quoted the JPMorgan banker as saying you could get attracted to Neumann's vision thanks to a charisma that was as magnetic as he's seen.
In courting WeWork's expected IPO , JPMorgan became deeply entangled with the finances of the company and its cofounder. It bought into early funding rounds and lent hundreds of millions of dollars to Neumann through mortgages and a WeWork share-backed credit line.
Wintroub wasn't alone in buying the WeWork story. Lee too was an early believer in the coworking company, quoted in Forbes in a 2014 article talking up the firm's promise. Neumann attended Lee's funeral and wrote about it. JPMorgan's asset management fund invested. Dimon was involved too, working so closely with Neumann at times that the founder took to calling him his private banker.
When Wintroub worked in his grandfather's auto parts store as a kid, the elder made it clear that he didn't care for winning or losing but whether his grandson had gotten the most of himself that day. It's a lesson that Wintroub noted in an interview after he became a vice chairman — the motto is known simply as the Wintroub Way.