[The underwriting bankers] will all be watching anxiously over the coming days to see whether the stock recovers, said Tom White, a senior analyst at D.A. Davidson. "At an emotional level I'm sure the company and the bankers don't want to see it break the price that it went out at," he said. "It will take a couple of days before we get a clear sense of where it stabilizes."

Lyft is a model of the unicorn class of companies that secured valuations in excess of $1 billion from private investors and will soon seek validation from the public. These are high-growth companies, with even higher propensities to burn through capital, and they're built around compelling narratives of world-altering potential.

Lyft has said it can fundamentally alter transportation and eventually usher in a world of self-driving cars. The same can be said of Uber, which is expected to publicly file paperwork for its own IPO this month. Slack makes similar promises of reinventing how workers communicate and Postmates of how people shop for food and other goods.

Such story-driven stocks tend to be volatile and polarizing among investors, said Jake Fuller, managing director of equities research at Guggenheim Securities LLC. "People kind of shake out on one side or the other on the debate."

At the center of the debate is how to value a company that lost almost $1 billion last year. Even after the declines, the market still values Lyft above its last private valuation. On a price-to-sales basis, Lyft's market cap far exceeds that of other internet companies, wrote Mandeep Singh, an analyst for Bloomberg Intelligence. "The reality is setting in," he wrote. "The valuation is too high for Lyft."

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