(In 16th paragraph, corrects to show only Levie dropped out of school, the other co-founder finished)
By Avik Das
March 24 (Reuters) - Data storage provider Box Inc aims to raise about $250 million in an initial public offering, becoming the latest contender from a wave of “cloud-based” companies to test the frothy market for technology listings.
The highly anticipated IPO follows debuts such as Twitter Inc and King Digital Entertainment Plc, the maker of mobile phone game “Candy Crush Saga” which will start trading on the New York Stock Exchange this week. Box’s main rival, Dropbox, is also expected to hold a high-profile IPO in the coming months.
Box said its full-year loss widened to $169 million even as revenue doubled to $124 million. The Los Altos, California-based company, which lets mostly corporate customers manage and store data online, has spent heavily in the past two years on wooing new clients, which now include the likes of Ameriprise Financial, Inc., Bechtel, Eli Lilly and Co and Gap, Inc.
Although revenue has been growing, the company warned in its investor prospectus that “we have a history of cumulative losses, and we do not expect to be profitable for the foreseeable future.”
Aaron Levie and Dylan Smith, two childhood friends who co-founded Box in 2005, hold about 4.1 percent and 1.8 percent ownership of the firm, respectively.
Box’s earliest venture backer, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, owns about 25.5 percent of the company. US Venture Partners, which announced its first Box investement in 2008, is the second-largest shareholder with a 13 percent stake.
Box said in a regulatory filing it intends to list its Class A common stock on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol “BOX.”
The filing did not reveal how many shares the company planned to sell or their expected price. The $250 million mentioned was an estimate purely for the purposes of calculating registration fees. (r.reuters.com/jaj87v)
The IPO comes at a time of significant growth in the cloud computing industry, as companies increasingly shift their computing needs to the Web, but amidst a climate of intense competition.
While Dropbox won plaudits for its ease-of-use and gained traction among individual users, Levie focused Box in recent years toward catering to corporate customers who demanded greater levels of administrative control and security.
Aside from Dropbox, Box also faces competition from some of the biggest names in the Internet industry, including Microsoft Corp and Google Inc.
Google this month sharply slashed prices for its online storage service Drive, which was seen as a competitive move against Box and Dropbox.
“Some of our principal competitors offer their products or services at a lower price, which has resulted in pricing pressures on our business,” Box said in its regulatory filing on Monday.
Morgan Stanley, Credit Suisse, JPMorgan and BMO Capital Markets were among the underwriters for the IPO.
Seattle-area natives Levie and Smith founded the company while students at the University of Southern California and Duke, respectively.
Levie dropped out of school and the pair moved their young company into a Berkeley garage owned by Levie’s uncle in 2005 and obtained a $350,000 investment from Mark Cuban by emailing him out of the blue.
DFJ led the company’s $1.5 million Series A in late 2006. Cuban sold his shares to Draper Fisher Jurvetson over a dispute on whether Box should keep the freemium model that Levie advocated, but the company has since gained other high-caliber backers, including venture firm Andreessen Horowitz, General Atlantic and actor Ashton Kutcher.
As the company has grown, Levie, 28, has emerged to become one of the most outspoken young executives in Silicon Valley. Known for his quirky style - he typically sports neon-colored sneakers or laces - and dry sense of humor, he has a knack for riffing on any number of topics.
“That awkward moment when your startup doesn’t have a drone strategy,” he tweeted earlier this month as Amazon was catching flak for a proposed high-tech delivery strategy.
Smith, who has been serving as the company’s chief financial officer, has opted to stay behind the scenes for the most part But in 2010, at the age of 24, he appeared on Bravo’s “The Millionaire Matchmaker” reality television program. (Reporting by Avik Das in Bangalore; Editing by Don Sebastian)