Have you wondered why so many tech companies aren’t listed on the stock exchanges? Many of these companies find no incentive to go public, and with access to abundant venture capital, they are able to build privately held empires. Their private status allows them the freedom to direct their organizations’ fortunes independent of stockholder demands, keeping the tech IPO market “ice cold.” Below is a quick overview for you of five of these top-tier private companies:
Now acknowledged to be the most valuable privately held startup in the world, Uber is resisting pressure from its investors to go public. Filling a much-needed transportation niche has been the key to Uber’s explosive growth, allowing it to reach a $50-billion valuation in just half the time it took Facebook to achieve that figure. You may be one of the eager investors parsing every statement made by Uber CEO Travis Kalanick regarding the possibility of what would be a massive IPO, but so far, he has indefinitely deferred the possibility. Meanwhile, Forbes notes that Kalanick and other execs and investors are doing very well in the secondary private stock market.
Undoubtedly a less familiar name to you, North Carolina’s analytic software company has been chalking up decades of outstanding revenue by “treating employees as if they make a difference to the company,” in the words of cofounder Jim Goodnight. Now among the largest privately held software companies in the world, SAS had global revenue of $3.16 billion in 2015. Instead of taking the company public, SAS leaders have focused on reducing employee churn. The smorgasbord of benefits that SAS workers enjoy include everything from on-site daycare and preschool to a swimming pool, various therapists, summer camp, lessons in ultimate Frisbee and golf and much more. Their approach has proven successful, giving them a three percent turnover rate in an industry with a 22 percent average.
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This secretive data-mining company was valued at $20 billion in July 2015, but it has no interest in going public. Its fortunes were built by quietly providing data analysis to the United States intelligence community, but it has since branched out into serving commercial clients in the health care and financial industries. Recently in the news due to its efforts to sell its private shares to repay some of its venture capital investments. Wall Street Journal chronicles the unusual pathway Palantir is forging to remain privately held while inviting employees to sell up to $425,000 of their holdings once each year.
With a successful private funding round of $1.5 billion completed in June 2015, Airbnb continues to earn investor confidence. Its revenue for 2015 is estimated at $900 million, as its brand remains at the top of the peer-sharing economy that it helped to pioneer. Inc.com, which named Airbnb as its 2014 Company of the Year, labels this home-sharing company as “disruptive, brazen, and overall brilliant.” You have probably found Airbnb lodgings convenient, as it now offers 800,000 beds around the world.
Cloud storage service Dropbox has been holding its own in a highly competitive space since 2007. Now boasting over 300 million users, the company’s worth is estimated to be over $10 billion. Through a feat of “extreme engineering,” in the words of Wired, Dropbox has recently managed to build its own network of computers and is no longer reliant on the Amazon cloud. This epic accomplishment is likely to secure the company’s financial future for years to come.
Staying private allows companies in the tech sector to respond agilely to changing market environments, adjusting their business plans as needed and avoiding the cumbersome public reporting requirements. As long as the engine of private funding remains robust, it’s unlikely that you’ll see this situation changing.
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