Inc.'s Entrepreneur of the Year, Aaron Levie, just reached another milestone: According to a Quartz report, which cites an unnamed source, Levie's cloud file-sharing company Box has "secretly" filed for an IPO.
The news itself doesn't come as a surprise--Box is one of the most hotly anticipated initial public offerings in the tech industry. But the timing up until now had been unclear. If the news is correct, Box's move to go public comes only weeks after rival Dropbox raised another $250 million in funding.
It's a smart move given Levie's ambitious plans and the company's growth trajectory.
Box has about 20 million users, spread out among 180,000 businesses, who use the platform to upload files, collaborate, and share content online. Box has customers at 97 percent of the companies on the Fortune 500, and has taken a special interest in healthcare where data integration is particularly complex. The company made a large effort to ensure that its services were Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA)-compliant, which is the industry standard necessary for protecting electronic health records.
In addition to going after more industries, Box must do daily battle with some significant competitors. Besides Dropbox, there is Accellion, Citrix, Google, Hightail, IBM, and Oracle--and the biggest of them all, Microsoft. And then of course there is the constant threat of security issues. All of these challenges are going to require more capital and infrastructure. According to Quartz, the company is looking to raise about $500 million in an IPO.
Investors, who have poured $300 million into the start-up, are valuing the business at $1.2 billion.
With the news that Box has now filed for an IPO, it beats Dropbox, which is also expected to go public this year, to the punch. Box received a $100 million round of funding in December, while Dropbox raised a $250 million round earlier this month. To date, Box and Dropbox have raised $409 million and $507 million respectively, according to CrunchBase.
Box was able to secretly file the IPO under a new law that allows companies with less than $1 billion in annual revenue to file a draft of their prospectus with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.
So far, Levie has gotten the timing right on a number of key moves, including anticipating the shift to mobile devices and pivoting to serve the enterprise software market.
Will he get the timing right on going public too? Stay tuned.
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