I've been following the story of Box and its charismatic leader, Aaron Levie, for quite some time, and one of the more popular stories here on Staffing Talk has been the Levie-inspired Follow This Rule to Create a Great Staffing Company.
Unfortunately for Levie and for other IPO-bound start ups, the recent crash in high-flying tech stocks has set their plans back. Both Box's and Square's IPOs have been put off indefinitely.
It gets worse. Neither of these companies makes a profit. Square lost $100 million in 2013 and Box lost more than $150 million. Their burn rate is high, and it's far from clear that they have a whole lot of runway (cash) to get them to a point of positive cash flow.
Something is disastrous if people, or the peanut gallery, think it is. Which is totally separate from whether it really is or not.
This has led to some hand-wringing this weekend about the fate of their employees. Why stick around on what might be a sinking ship?
One of my favorite commenters, LE, over on AVC put things colorfully re perception of Box and Square's losses and employee morale:
Something is disastrous if people, or the peanut gallery, think it is. Which is totally separate from whether it really is or not. This is the reason that a man can place his hand on a random women's arm, but not over her mouth or breast. By definition you can't do that. Except if you are a Physician doing an exam in which case you can. Or married to the women. But not in a restaurant. You get the point.
It's not fun to be an employee when priority #1 is to cut payroll and eliminate every possible expense (hello 2002 and 2008). Back in 1982 I decided to leave my first career job in part because the company decided to eliminate the 'sunshine' fund that paid for snacks and field fees for the company soccer team (saving a whopping $150 yearly in 1982 dollars).
Nevertheless, I'll bet I'm not the only business owner that looks on Box and Square with a bit of schadenfreude. Here we busting our butts day in and day out to make a profit when these other companies that we have to compete with don't even bother.
Don't count Box and Square out yet though. Facebook also had a down round. New investments kept it financed just fine until it to was able to ride out a rough IPO.