Aaron Levie signs off chairman’s letter “Go cloud!” as Box prepares for IPO

You can’t say it wasn’t coming. Cloud storage provider Box has announced its public offering after a huge amount of rumour and conjecture, with the overall amount raised expected to hit around $250m.

The company is looking to trade under the NYSE symbol ‘BOX’ and confirms reports in January that the cloud storage bods had confidentially filed.

The number of shares and their price wasn’t disclosed in the official S-1 form on the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) site, however the company’s numbers were – and it doesn’t make for pretty reading on first glance.

As the company’s revenues have gone up, so have its losses - $124.2m in revenue for the year ended January 31, combined with a loss of $169m. This compares with $58.8m revenue and $112.8m loss for the previous year, and $21.1m and $50.4m for 2011. 2012’s figures weren’t disclosed because Box changed the dates of their financial year.

“We have a history of cumulative losses, and we do not expect to be profitable for the foreseeable future,” the company warned.

Box name-checked five companies as its key competitors in the cloud storage space: Citrix, Dropbox, EMC, Google and Microsoft.

The risk factor chapter of an IPO filing always makes for the most interesting reading, and given some of the hypervendors and long-standing tech players cited above, it gives credence to Box’s fears concerning “greater name recognition, much longer operating histories, larger marketing budgets and significantly greater resources.”

Yet there’s plenty to be happy about, with the company moving from 369 to 972 employees over the course of two years to January 2014. Box revealed it anticipated a significant expansion – both local and international – on operations and employee head count in the near term.

In a letter published in the filing, CEO Aaron Levie was at pains to point out how Box differed from the crowd in terms of the big legacy IT firms to provide “a new kind of enterprise software company.”

“We’ve intentionally ignored conventional wisdom, instead trying to imagine and bring to life the very best ways to build and deliver amazing technology for our customers,” he wrote.

This came across even in the backgrounds of the execs, with Levie noting “neither Dylan [Smith, Box CFO] nor I had storied careers at IBM or Oracle.”

Levie also shed light on Box’s influences as a company: the “passion and attention to detail” of Apple; the “Zappos-like support”; and the “open ecosystem much like Salesforce.com.” But above all, Levie extolled the virtues of constant innovation, signing off the letter “go cloud!”

Ian Moyse, sales director of CRM cloud provider Workbooks and a member of the Board of Eurocloud and the Governance Board of the Cloud Industry Forum, told CloudTech how Box’s IPO was a “great example of how innovative cloud firms can disrupt the market, grow fast and take on the legacy bigger brand names.”

“Box is one of those well known names that people could assume have been around far longer than the 2005 start and who quickly have achieved growth, brand and customer adoption,” Moyse said, adding: “In a time when we are seeing HP, Dell, Intel, EMC, Symantec and others cutting we continue to see cloud firms growing, innovating and being valued highly in the market.”

Comparisons have inevitably been made with Dropbox, whom Box outed as competition in the S-1 even though Levie is on record saying there is no direct rivalry between the two. What’s your view? Take a look at an infographic comparing the two firms here, while go here for Box's full 148-page S-1 filing.

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