The CEO of billion-dollar startup Airtable says it could go public any time it wants. Here's why he doesn't want to.

The CEO of billion-dollar startup Airtable says it could go public any time it wants. Here's why he doesn't want to.

Howie Liu


Airtable CEO Howie Liu says the company doesn't feel any "urgency" about going public.

  • Airtable, the hot enterprise software startup, likely won't be going public soon, CEO Howie Liu said.
  • The company recently joined the "unicorn club" with a valuation of greater than $1 billion.
  • Its revenue will likely soon be sufficient to make for a healthy IPO, CEO Howie Liu tells Business Insider, who also says that it's not currently cash flow positive - but only by choice.
  • But it doesn't feel a need or any urgency to go public, he said.

A slew of Silicon Valley startups are slated to go public this year, but don't expect Airtable to be among them.

The enterprise software startup recently gained unicorn status, raising funds at a valuation of more than $1 billion, and joining the likes of soon-to-be public companies including Lyft, Uber, and Pinterest. It also is on track to soon have enough revenue to have a successful public offering and to convince Wall Street analysts to cover it, company CEO Howie Liu told Business Insider in a recent interview.

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"We are clearly on a path to where we could easily go public in the near future if we wanted to," Liu said. But, he continued, "We actually have no immediate intention or any urgency around going public."

Part of the reason for that is the current funding and startup environment in Silicon Valley, he said. Capital for growing companies is easy to come by. After the government relaxed the rule on the number of shareholders a company can have before it has to start publicly reporting its financials, there's less pressure on startups of a certain size to go public, he added. And going public has become less of a milestone marker for startups than it used to be, he said.


That environment has given companies including Airtable, which offers a cloud-based spreadsheet service that can be used to create databases and custom apps, more of a chance to think about "what are the pros and cons of going public, and how can we best serve our customers, our employees, and all stakeholders involved, including investors, either as a private or public entity," Liu said.

But Airtable in particular has room to go public on its own terms, because of its financial situation. The company Airtable has raised $170 million to date, including a $100 million Series C funding round last fall. Although the company's not yet generating positive cash flow, that's by choice, Liu said. Airtable is taking all the money it generates and investing it back in its business, he said.

Read this: Here's how Airtable raised $160 million last year - and got a valuation of about $1 billion - without a pitch deck

"We are ... very fortunate to be at a point where we could never raise venture funding again, have zero capital in the bank, and still continue to grow at a sustainable pace," he said.

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