Dropbox Inc., the popular file-storage company, has met with advisers to discuss the possibility of an initial public offering as soon as 2017, according to people familiar with the matter.
Management wanted to talk about the feasibility of a listing and get a sense of the valuation the company could fetch from public market investors, the people said. The conversations were exploratory and no final decision has been made on a potential IPO, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the matter is private.
The meetings, which the people said Dropbox sought out, signal a shift in thinking by the closely held company and Chief Executive Officer Drew Houston, who said last year it had no plans to go public anytime soon.
A spokeswoman for Dropbox declined to comment.
Dropbox, based in San Francisco, has faced questions over whether it’s worth the $10 billion valuation it was awarded in a 2014 funding round. Since then, a number of investors who also invest in both public and private stocks have written down the value of their holdings in the company.
Though not yet profitable, the company is free-cash-flow positive, Houston said at the Bloomberg Technology Conference in June. Getting to that point took revenue growth and greater discipline on costs, Todd Jackson, the company’s vice president of product and design, said in June.
Some 200,000 business teams pay for Dropbox products, Houston said at Fortune’s Brainstorm conference last month. The company recently added sports retailer Adidas AG to its list of enterprise customers. It has 500 million registered users, according to its website.
After making its name in file-syncing and sharing, Dropbox has been trying to expand into the larger market of cloud-based collaboration. The company has recently added tools for scanning documents with a smartphone camera and for creating new Microsoft Office documents with the click of a button.
One of Dropbox’s closest competitors, Box Inc., went public last year at a $1.7 billion valuation -- 29 percent below the value it fetched in a private funding round six months earlier. Box shares traded at $12.88 at 12:36 p.m. in New York, below its $14-a-share IPO price.
This year has been the slowest for U.S. technology and communications IPOs since the recession, according to Bloomberg data. Some technology startups have put off going public because of fears they may have to stomach a lower valuation than they last achieved in a private fundraising round.
Despite those concerns, some are still thinking about testing the water. Spotify Ltd., the music-streaming company valued at more than $8 billion, plans to go public in the second half of next year, people familiar with the plan said last month.
Meanwhile Uber Technologies Inc.’s sale of its money-guzzling China unit to competitor Didi Chuxing takes the company one step closer to being ready for an IPO.
Of the 11 technology companies to list on U.S. exchanges in 2016, Japanese messaging platform Line Corp., which also listed in Tokyo, is the biggest by market value. Line raised $1.3 billion in a July IPO and its shares are up 43 percent since its debut, valuing the company at about $9.8 billion.
— With assistance by Dina Bass