Contact: Brenon Daly
Even as several other fast-growing enterprise IT sectors have all seen unicorns gallop onto Wall Street, richly valued information security (infosec) startups have stayed off the IPO track. The sector hasn’t seen a $1bn company created on a US exchange in more than two-and-a-half years. Infosec has been conspicuous by its absence from the tech IPO market, especially considering that no other single segment of the IT market has as many viable public company candidates. Fully one-quarter of the startups in the ‘shadow IPO’ pipeline maintained by 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase Premium come from the infosec space. (See related report.)
At long last, one of the infosec unicorns is (finally) ready to step onto the public market: cloud-based identity management startup Okta has publicly revealed its paperwork for a $100m offering that should price next month. The company, which raised nearly $230m in venture backing, had already achieved a $1bn+ valuation in the private market – and will head north from there in the public market.
Wall Street will undoubtedly find a lot to like in Okta’s prospectus. The company is doubling revenue each year, with virtually all of its sales coming from subscriptions. (Professional services accounts for roughly 10% of total revenue, a lower percentage than most of the big-name SaaS vendors.) Subscription revenue gives a certain predictability to a company’s top line, especially when coupled with the ability to consistently expand those subscriptions. Okta notes in its prospectus that its customer retention rate, on a dollar basis, is slightly more than 120%, an enviable rate for any subscription-based startup. Put it altogether and revenue at Okta for the fiscal year that ended in January is likely to be in the neighborhood of $160m, up from $86 in the previous fiscal year and just $41m in the fiscal year before that.
Having quadrupled revenue in just two years, Okta’s red ink isn’t likely to worry many investors. Through its first three fiscal quarters (ended October 31, 2016), Okta lost $65m, up from $55m in the same period the previous fiscal year. As is often the case with SaaS providers, Okta’s losses stem primarily from heavy spending on sales and marketing. Early on, Okta was spending slightly more than $1 on sales and marketing to bring in $1 of subscription revenue. It has since slowed the spending, with the result that in its latest quarter it spent $32m on sales and marketing to bring in $38m in subscriptions. (For comparison, Box – one of the more egregious spenders – shelled out $47m on sales and marketing to generate exactly the same subscription revenue as Okta ($39m) in its most recent quarter when it originally filed to go public in 2014.)
Okta’s IPO would represent the first new $1bn valuation for an infosec vendor on the NYSE or Nasdaq since CyberArk’s offering in September 2014. Sophos went public (rather quietly) in 2015 on the London Stock Exchange, and the two domestic infosec IPOs since then (Rapid7 and SecureWorks) both currently trade underwater from their offering. In contrast to the recent infosec shutout, startups from several other IT sectors have all been able to enhance their $1bn private-market valuation on Wall Street, including Nutanix, Atlassian, Twilio and Pure Storage. That list will get a little longer as MuleSoft is set to debut at more than a $2bn market cap, up from $1.5bn in its final round as a private company.