There are a handful people who manage to fully encapsulate Silicon Valley's standard success narrative. Aaron Levie, the 29-year-old CEO and co-founder of the online file sharing and cloud content management service Box, is one of them.
Drop out of college to start a tech company? Check. Turn down a mega-million dollar offer to maintain control of said company? Check. Wear jeans to work and constantly extol the benefits of disruptive technology? Check. Watch your company, now valued at roughly $2 billion, prepare to go public? Double check.
Levie's young, he's innovative, he wears distinctive red Converse and, according to TechCrunch, he can be credited "with bringing sexy back to enterprise startups." In addition, after more than a year of intense speculation, it's finally official: Levie will soon add 'CEO and co-founder of a publicly traded company' to his already impressive resume.
Although, as of yet, he can't say he heads a profitable enterprise. Yesterday, Box filed its S-1 documentation with the Securities and Exchange Commission, unveiling previously undisclosed information about the company's finances: While its revenue has dramatically increased over the last few years (rising 111 percent year-over-year to $124.2 million by the end of Jan. 2014), so has its net losses (which widened from $112.6 million to $168.6 million over the same time period). The company plans to raise $250 million with an IPO, but notes that "we do not expect to be profitable in the foreseeable future."
The filing also revealed that Levie owns a considerably small percentage of the company he co-founded back in 2005.
When Facebook filed its initial paperwork with the SEC in February 2012, for example, CEO and co-founder Mark Zuckerberg owned 28.2 percent of the company. And when Groupon went public back in 2011, co-founders Andrew Mason and Eric Lefkofsky (Lefkosfsky replaced Mason as CEO back in February 2012) owned a combined 29.3 percent of class A shares and 83.4 percent of class B shares.
Levie, in contrast, only owns 4.1 percent of Box. Meanwhile, Draper Fisher Jurveston, the Menlo-Park based venture capital firm that invested $1.5 million in series A funding back in 2006, owns 25.5 percent of the company, suggesting that Levie, in an effort to keep his unprofitable company afloat, was forced to sell off the majority of his equity.
Despite his relatively measly stake, Levie remains the very public face of Box (and, one could argue, the most prominent and recognizable cheerleader for "the cloud"). His letter in the SEC filing touches on all of Silicon Valley's most popular tropes (scrappy origin story, the importance of innovation, how technology will make the world a more efficient, transparent and ultimately better place, etc.) But Levie's most appealing trait remains his visible enthusiasm; Instead of a traditional sign-off, he concludes his letter with a "Go Cloud!"
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