In the business world, 2019 appears poised to be “the year of the unicorn startup,” as a series of highly successful tech companies are starting to go public and attempt to rake in serious investment dollars. Lyft, Uber, Slack, and Postmates are among the big names entering that fray or rumored to be doing so soon. Now, another notable company, Pinterest, filed for an IPO this past week and has aspirations of achieving a $12 billion valuation. There’s just one problem: The company has never turned a profit.
According to CBS News, Pinterest’s new regulatory filing emphasized that the company is making more money than ever. In 2018, its revenue increased by a staggering 60 percent, to $755.9 million. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the company still spends more money than it brings in. So, in the long run, will Pinterest’s true value live up to the hype around it in Silicon Valley? That’s unclear. All we know so far is that Pinterest’s leaders have raved about the brand’s potential.
“More ‘pinners’ say that Pinterest helps them find new shopping ideas and inspiration than users on other consumer internet platforms, according to a survey by Comscore that we commissioned,” Pinterest said in its regulatory filing. “People actively seek relevant commercial content on our service, and advertisers are increasingly providing it.”
All of that sounds great, but no one can be sure it will translate into billions in profit. CNN Business noted that one thing Pinterest has going for it is a clear trend of growth over the years—the site began as a simple digital scrapbooking service and quickly evolved into a “visual discovery tool” that’s now positioned to compete for years to come with products like Google Search. This doesn’t necessarily mean it has staying power, though. Pinterest is currently proud to boast more than 250 million monthly unique users, but it also admitted in its IPO prospectus that it doesn’t anticipate many of those users becoming active daily.
Adding to all of this is the uncertainty that investors are feeling about startup IPOs in a post-Lyft environment. When Lyft, the popular ride-sharing service, went public last month, it thrived at first with an IPO price of $72 but struggled to sustain that level after the first day. Renaissance Capital analyst Matt Kennedy told CNN that Pinterest may struggle in the wake of Lyft’s early difficulties.
“It didn’t help,” Kennedy said. “It showed that public investors are somewhat cautious toward highly valued, unprofitable companies.”
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