Why a $12 billion startup wouldn't want to go public

Melody Hahm
Reporter

An IPO is the traditional way to measure the maturity of a company. And many Silicon Valley startups, while not disclosing exact timelines, still have their sights set on a public debut.

But, Pinterest CEO Ben Silbermann wants to keep the company private for as long as he can.

Citing the headaches of quarterly reporting and the pitfalls of being held captive to public shareholders, Silbermann said Pinterest is not looking forward to going public.

“You’re able to focus. There’s a lot of work that goes into reporting. At this stage, we’re really focused on building a great product for users and we’re really focused on making the product work for advertisers. You can take a little bit of those longer views without communicating everything you’re doing every few months,” he said during the TechCrunch Disrupt Conference in San Francisco on Monday.

He was also upfront that it’s a luxury that he has, being at the helm of a startup that’s feeling flush with funding.

“We’ve been fortunate enough to have investors who are willing to go with us on this journey,” he said.

“We didn’t want to take on the overhead at this moment of being a public company since we have the capital and runway to do it,” Silbermann explained.

Pinterest raised $150 million in its latest round of funding, valuing the 7-year-old visual discovery platform at $12.3 billion. The company currently has 200 million monthly users. 

To IPO or not IPO

The question of going public is top-of-mind for many startups with sky-high valuations and feeling flush with cash. But not all startup bosses have subscribed to Silbermann’s laid back approach when discussing the future.

Snap (SNAP) CEO Evan Spiegel was laser-focused on going public years before actually filing for an IPO.

“[Having an exit strategy] really matters. We have a plan to do that. I obviously can’t give you a lot of color on that. An IPO looks like a lot of things but another dot in the growth of our business. We don’t view that as the end. That’s just the beginning. An IPO is really important,” he said during Recode’s 2015 Code Conference,

Meanwhile, others like Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi, who took the helm in August, told employees that the company would plan to go public in 18 to 36 months.

Fellow unicorn CEO Brian Chesky said in an interview with WIRED, “We’re definitely trying to prepare the company to be IPO-ready as soon as possible. I think another way of saying that is being a mature, very well-run company with real-time financials.”

There’s a strong case for startups to stay private for as long as possible, especially if their investors are along for the ride.

Melody Hahm is a writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

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