Does this mean the end of Aaron Levie's neon sneakers and pithy tweets?
With word Monday that Levie's high-flying Los Altos cloud-storage startup, Box, has filed for an initial public offering with preliminary plans to raise $250 million, the 20-something co-founder and CEO may have to tone down his online banter and switch to dress shoes when he meets with bankers.
In a letter to investors released Monday in which Levie describes how he started Box in 2005 with his childhood pal Dylan Smith as a tool to make it "incredibly easy for people to get to their files from anywhere," the colorful college dropout said Box wants to "change how people could access, share and collaborate on information."
"It's been a thrilling ride," Levie wrote. "But it's also just beginning."
Box said Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, JPMorgan and BMO Capital Markets were among the underwriters for the IPO and that it intends to list its Class A common stock on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol BOX on an as-yet-unannounced date.
What makes Box unique, analysts said, is that instead of targeting individuals seeking to share things like MP3 files, the startup has been selling data-storage software to companies in the Fortune 500. In an interview with this paper in September, analyst R. "Ray" Wang with Constellation Research said of Levie, "There aren't a lot of people Aaron's age who are actually passionate about the enterprise -- even though that's where the money is." By some estimates, the cloud-storage market is worth more than $7 billion a year, and Wang has been among those who predict strong demand when Box finally kicks off an IPO.
In his letter, Levie says that as mobile devices give users the ability to access data and apps at any time and place, their employers must also increasingly store and retrieve information from the cloud. That marriage of mobile and cloud, he says, is the key to Box's success.
"The result is a rare combination of forces that will transform what people expect from the technology they use at work, how organizations think about the power and potential of IT, and eventually, even the structure of entire industries," Levie wrote, adding that Box will help users tap into their work product effortlessly "so that we get the most out of our information anywhere and anytime."
Contact Patrick May at 408-920-5689; follow him at Twitter.com/patmaymerc.
25 million: Registered users at the end of January
34,000: Paying clients, including Gap and Eli Lilly
$400 million: Box funding from investors including VC firms Andreessen Horowitz and Draper Fisher Jurvetson
976: Number of employees
$124.2 million: Revenue for most recent financial year
$168.6 million: Net loss in the same period