The 19-year-old polling company SurveyMonkey is preparing to go public later this year, according to people familiar with the company's plans, accelerating its conversations with bankers ahead of what would be one of 2018's most closely-watched IPOs.
Last valued at $2 billion, SurveyMonkey is advised by Silicon Valley heavyweights like Sheryl Sandberg and Meg Whitman, who sit on its board. But despite its prominence and profitability, SurveyMonkey is approaching its third decade as a private company, serving as a prime example of startups' reluctance to test public markets.
That's expected to change in 2018. The company has not yet initiated the so-called "bake off" to determine which banks will win the bid to underwrite the IPO, but conversations with Wall Street are "heating up," in the words of one person, and have entered a new stage beyond the typical getting-to-know-you outreach. The company plans to choose the bankers in the next few months.
SurveyMonkey would be at least the third major tech IPO of 2018: Spotify and Dropbox have already confidentially filed to list their stock publicly, and are expected to do so in the first half of 2018. SurveyMonkey is closely watching Dropbox in particular, feeling that the data-storage company relies on a similar business model, according to one person.
The company says it offers online surveys to almost all of the Fortune 500, and has a roster of political clients who use the portal to gauge public opinion. SurveyMonkey now has more than 650 employees.
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SurveyMonkey has also considered making a last-minute bolt-on acquisition of another company in the space to enhance its value, said another person.
SurveyMonkey declined to comment, but its CEO, Zander Lurie, said last May that "we operate this company like a public company today," and that while an IPO was planned, it "was not their only option."
Founded in 1999, the company had to recover from the sudden death of its CEO, Dave Goldberg, a prominent tech executive and Sandberg's husband, in 2015. An investor group led by Spectrum Equity purchased a majority stake in the company in 2009 and appointed Goldberg CEO.
Since then, SurveyMonkey has raised several rounds of debt financing from what feels like all of Wall Street: Nine different lenders have provided debt to the company, according to PitchBook, including Bank of America Merrill Lynch, JPMorgan and Goldman Sachs.
So an unusually high number of bankers have been swirling around this deal. The lenders have been able to court the startup, and would likely all make a hard bid to become the lead underwriter on the IPO.