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Dropbox files for IPO, and other 'unicorns' are watching

[NEW YORK] Dropbox, an online file storage company that has ranked among Silicon Valley's highest-valued privately held startups, filed paperwork to sell its shares to the public, heralding a potential wave of other such initial public offerings.

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday, Dropbox said it planned to raise up to US$500 million in the offering, and intended to use the money for a variety of purposes, including potential acquisitions. Dropbox was last valued by private-market investors at about US$10 billion.

Drew Houston, chief executive of Dropbox, helped found the company in 2007, initially naming it Even Flow after a song of the same name by the rock band Pearl Jam. His goal was to make it easier for people to gain access to all their digital information, including documents and photos, on any device, and to automatically keep all those files updated as they were modified.

Since then, Dropbox, based in San Francisco, has grown into one of the leading file-syncing services, though it faces stiff competition from Google, Microsoft and others. In its filing, Dropbox said it had more than 500 million registered users, more than 11 million of whom paid for the service.

While Dropbox still loses money, those deficits are narrowing. Last year, it lost US$112 million, compared with US$210 million the previous year. The company's revenue rose to US$1.11 billion last year from US$845 million the year before.

Other unicorns - a term for startups that have been valued at more than US$1 billion in the past by private investors - that may sell shares to the public in the future include Airbnb, Lyft and Uber.