Food delivery startup DoorDash surged in a US stock market debut as investors gobbled up shares, kicking off a "unicorn parade" set to include Airbnb on Thursday.

DoorDash shares priced at $102 for an initial public offering on Wednesday jumped more than 80 percent out of the gate, ending the formal trading day at $189.51.

The San Francisco-based firm raised $3.4 billion in a market hungry for emerging tech sector firms catering to pandemic lifestyle shifts to give the fast-growing firm a valuation of $39 billion at the opening.

"In this Covid backdrop, food delivery is a main artery to get meals for many consumers and that trend looks to accelerate with a second wave," said Wedbush analyst Dan Ives.

"This IPO and strong Street reaction speaks to investor appetite for these new growth stories."

The debut gave DoorDash a value more than double the $16 billion it was deemed worth during a private funding round in June.

Delivery of meals and groceries has boomed during the pandemic, with restaurants offering no or limited dine-in options and people fearful of exposure to Covid-19.

DoorDash, which competes with GrubHub and Uber Eats, operates a leading online platform connecting people ordering food with those willing to deliver it.

DoorDash is on track to take in some $2 billion in revenue this year on growing demand during the pandemic, the food delivery startup said in a prior filing.

The startup reported losses totaling $149 million in the first nine months of 2020.

The startup boasts having more than a million delivery people, referred to as "Dashers," and more than 18 million customers.

DoorDash has said surveys showed that as of October it had a 50 percent share of the US meal delivery market, and was twice as large as its nearest competitor, Uber Eats.

DoorDash followed in the footsteps of other tech startups regarding company governance, offering an assortment of share types that will result in co-founder Tony Xu maintaining control.

DoorDash got off to a spectacular Wall Street debut as frenzied investors snapped up shares of the food delivery group which has seen sizzling growth during the pandemic
DoorDash got off to a spectacular Wall Street debut as frenzied investors snapped up shares of the food delivery group which has seen sizzling growth during the pandemic AFP / Eric BARADAT

The DoorDash stock market debut kicked off a "unicorn parade" capping a busy year for hot startups going public, according to analysts.

Airbnb was expected to reveal its IPO opening share price late Wednesday for its IPO the following morning.

Startups known as unicorns -- valued in the billions -- are poised to take advantage of a market hungry for young businesses promising fast growth.

Some analysts say the pandemic has distorted the economy and that it's too soon to know how these emerging firms will fare.

Startups are tapping into a prime time to raise money in the public market while their business models look promising and the market is eager for opportunities, according to analysts.

"It is a case of striking while the iron is hot, because there is going to be a market correction," said analyst Rob Enderle of Enderle group.

"You want to do an IPO and get your money before that happens."

Airbnb, which has seen its business crushed along with the rest of the travel industry, promises to be a better bet than DoorDash once people around the world return to vacationing and adventures, according to New Constructs.

The research firm said Airbnb "has a plausible path to profitability and growth" if it can contain costs while expanding its global footprint.

The vacation rental platform has fared better than travel industry peers with its home-sharing platform offering more appeal during the pandemic.

A key question is whether these emerging firms represent the future or are just a flash in the pan. A strong stock market could bring out more IPOs including from the online financial groups such as Robinhood and SoFi.