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Hot E-Commerce Startups May Be Headed for Surprise IPOs
Posted January 3, 2017
Hot E-Commerce Startups May Be Headed for Surprise IPOs
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By Jason Del Rey. Updated January 3, 2017 5:48AM

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Not a single e-commerce company went public on a U.S. stock exchange in 2016, according to startup data firm CB Insights. But with the new year, there are some new possibilities -- even in an industry dominated by Amazon.

Here are three young e-commerce companies that could surprise the startup world with IPOs in 2017.

Chewy.com

Maybe it's that Chewy is headquartered in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. and not New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles or Seattle. Or maybe it's that the startup has been more focused on its business than courting the business press.

Either way, online pet supply retailer Chewy.com is one of the most under-the-radar e-commerce success stories of the past few years, and a 2017 IPO is a possibility, according to a spokesman and another person familiar with the company's plans.

As of last month, Chewy was projecting nearly $900 million in revenue for 2016 and $1.5 billion for 2017, a spokesman said. The startup has quietly raised $236 million from blue-chip public-market investors like T. Rowe Price and BlackRock, after getting its start with a Series A investment in 2013 from Volition Capital, a spinoff of Fidelity Ventures.

A 2017 public offering may well depend on whether Chewy can achieve profitability - something it hasn't done yet - or at least prove there is a reasonable path to get there.

Stitch Fix

Right now, an IPO appears to be a "when," not "if," for Stitch Fix, the online retailer and personal styling service. The company's try-on-at-home model has been a hit in middle America among busy moms and professional women who would rather "shop" at home than in a store, with a personal stylist assisting from afar. Now, it's attempting to court men, too.

Industry sources estimate that the San Francisco-based company does well north of $500 million in annual sales, with its own portfolio of private-label brands helping to boost profit margins. The startup appears to have not raised any new investments since a funding round of between $25 million and $30 million in 2014, pointing toward a healthy cash-generating business.

Insiders talk about a public offering as a foregone conclusion, with only a multi-billion dollar acquisition offer as a potential alternative. Stitch Fix could pique the interest of Amazon - with its big push in apparel and fashion - but it would take the e-commerce giant's largest-ever acquisition to make it happen.

Casper

The New York City-based mattress startup has built the best-known brand in the young bed-in-a-box space, in part by using big venture capital money to fuel aggressive advertising spending.

The company said it took in $100 million in sales in 2015 and was on track earlier this year for $200 million over the following 12 months. A key to sustainable success, however, may be how Casper fares overseas and whether it can get its mattress customers to come back often to buy other products, such as pillows and sheets.

Of the three companies on this list, Casper is probably the longest-shot to go public next year. But a source insists an IPO is a possibility, which could help it stand out more in a niche of the mattress world that has few barriers to entry and profit margins that should keep the clones coming.

© 2017 Re/Code syndicated under contract with NewsEdge/Acquire Media. All rights reserved.

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