Aspire’s business accounts reach $1B in annualized transaction volume one year after launching

Singapore-based Aspire, which wants to become the financial services “one-stop shop” for SMEs, announced that its business accounts have reached $1 billion in annualized transaction volume one year after launching. The company also unveiled Bill Pay, its latest feature that lets businesses manage and pay invoices by emailing them to Aspire’s AI-based digital assistant.

Launched in May 2020, Aspire’s online business accounts are targeted to startups and small- to medium-sized enterprises, and do not require minimum deposits or monthly fees. Co-founder and chief executive officer Andrea Baronchelli told TechCrunch more than 10,000 companies now use Aspire’s business accounts and that adoption was driven by two main reasons. The first was Aspire’s transition to a multi-product strategy early last year, after focusing on corporate cards and working capital loans. The second reason is the COVID-19 pandemic, which made it harder for companies to open accounts at traditional banks.

“We can go in and say we offer all-in-one financial tools for growing businesses,” he said. “People come in and use one thing first, and then we offer them other things later on, so that’s been a huge success for us.”

Founded in 2018, Aspire has raised about $41.5 million in funding so far, including a Series A announced in July 2019. Its investors include MassMutual Ventures Southeast Asia, Arc Labs and Y Combinator.

Baronchelli said Aspire’s business account users consist of two main segments. The first are “launchers,” or people who are starting their first businesses and need to set up a way to send and receive money. Launchers typically make less than $400,000 a year in revenue and their Aspire account serves as their primary business account. The second segment are companies that make about $500,000 to $2 million a year and already had another bank account, but started using Aspire for its credit line, expense management or foreign exchange tools, and decided to open an account on the platform as well.

The company has customers from across Southeast Asia, and is particularly focused on Singapore, Indonesia and Vietnam. For example, it launched Aspire Kickstart, with incorporation services for Singaporean companies, at the start of this year.

Bill Pay, its newest feature, lets business owners forward invoices by email to Aspire’s AI-based digital assistant, which uses optical character recognition and deep learning to pull out payment details, including terms and due dates. Then users get a notification to do a final check before approving and scheduling payments. The feature syncs with accounting systems integrated into Aspire, including Xero and Quickbooks. Baronchelli said Aspire decided to launch Bill Pay after interviewing businesses and finding that many still relied on Excel spreadsheets.

Aspire’s offerings overlap with several other fintech companies in Southeast Asia. For example, Volopay, Wise and Revolut offer business accounts, too, and Spenmo offers business cards. Aspire plans to differentiate by expanding its stack of multiple products. For example, it is developing tools for accounts receivable, such as invoice automation, and accounts payable, like a dedicated product for payroll management. Baronchelli said Aspire is currently interviewing users to finalize the set of features it will offer.

“I don’t want to close the door that others might come toward a multiple product approach, but if you ask me what our position is now, we are basically the only one that offers an all-in-one product stack,” he added. “So we are a couple years ahead of the competition and have a first-mover advantage.”

 

With new owner Naver, Wattpad looks to supercharge its user-generated IP factory

Toronto-based Wattpad is officially part of South Korean internet giant Naver as of today, with the official close of the $600 million cash and stock acquisition deal. Under the terms of the acquisition, Wattpad will continue to be headquartered in, and operate from Canada, with co-founder and Allen Lau remaining CEO of the social storytelling company and reporting to the CEO of Naver’s Webtoon, Jun Koo Kim.

I spoke to Lau about what will change, and what won’t, now that Wattpad is part of Naver and Webtoon. As mentioned, Wattpad will remain headquartered in Toronto — and in fact, the company will be growing its headcount in Canada under its new owners with significant new hiring.

“For Wattpad itself, last year was one of our fastest growing years in terms of both in terms of revenue and company size,” Lau said. “This year will be even faster; we’re planning to hire over 100 people, primarily in Toronto and Halifax. So in terms of the number of jobs, and the number of opportunities, this puts us on another level.”

While the company is remaining in Canada and expanding its local talent pool, while maintaining its focus on delivering socially collaborative fiction, Lau says that the union with Naver and Webtoon is about more than just increasing the rate at which it can grow. The two companies share unique “synergies,” he says, that can help each better capitalize on their respective opportunities.

“Naver is one of the world’s largest internet companies,” Lau told me. “But the number one reason that this merger is happening is because of Webtoon. Webtoon is the largest digital publisher in the world, and they have over 76 million monthly users. Combined with our 90 million, that adds up to 166 total monthly users — the reach is enormous. We are now by far the leader in this space, in the storytelling space, in both comics and fiction: By far the largest one in the world.”

The other way in which the two companies complement each other is around IP. Wattpad has demonstrated its ability to take its user-generated fiction, and turn that into successful IP upon which original series and movies are based. The company has both a Books and a Studios publishing division, and has generated hits like Netflix’s The Kissing Booth out of the work of the authors on its platform. Increasingly, competing streaming services are looking around for new properties that will resonate with younger audiences, in order to win and maintain subscriptions.

“Wattpad is the IP factory for user generated content,” Lau said. “And Webtoons also have a lot of amazing IP that are proven to build audience, along with all the data and analytics and insight around those. So the combined library of the top IPs that are blockbusters literally double overnight [with the merger]. And not just the size, but the capability. Because before the acquisition, we had our online fiction, we have both publishing business, and we have TV shows and movies, as well; but with the combination, now we also have comics, we also have animation and potentially other capabilities, as well.”

The key to Wattpad’s success with developing IP in partnership with the creators on its platform isn’t just that its’ user-generated and crowd-friendly; Wattpad also has unique insight into the data behind what’s working about successful IP with its fans and readers. The company’s analytics platform can then provide collaborators in TV and movies with unparalleled, data-backed perspective into what should strike a chord with fans when translated into a new medium, and what might not be so important to include in the adaptation. This is what provides Wattpad with a unique edge when going head-to-head with legacy franchises including those from Disney and other megawatt brands.

“No only do we have the fan bases — it’s data driven,” Lau said. “When we adapt from the fiction on our platform to a movie, we can tell the screenwriter, ‘Keep chapter one, chapter five and chapter seven, but in seven only the first two paragraphs,’ because that’s what the 200,000 comments are telling us. That’s what our machine learning story DNA technology can tell you this is the insight; where are they excited? This is something unprecedented.”

With Naver and Webtoon, Wattpad gains the ability to leverage its insight-gathering IP generation in a truly cross-media context, spanning basically every means a fan might choose to engage with a property. For would-be Disney competitors, that’s likely to be an in-demand value proposition.

Daily Crunch: Expensify’s hacker approach to enterprise software is paying off

To get a roundup of TechCrunch’s biggest and most important stories delivered to your inbox every day at 3 p.m. PDT, subscribe here.

Today as we dig deep into Expensify, its history and its current ramp toward the public markets after reaching $100 million in ARR, a quick note on where we are in the world of exits.

If you are bored of IPOs, consider it a luxury. For years, the unicorn market was all hype and no liquidity. But in the last year or so, the public market has been a welcome and lucrative exit path for a host of unicorns. The same excitement that has led to record venture capital results in the private sector has been at play amongst public investors, boosting the value of many a former unicorn as they left their startup days behind them.

But an April pause led to some concern that the IPO market was cooling. News out today details an IPO climate that is warming once again. For Expensify, and other unicorns on the sidelines like Robinhood, it’s good news.

For one company in particular, warm IPO markets could not have come back at a better time. Let’s talk about Expensify.

A deep dive into Expensify ahead of its IPO

TechCrunch’s continuing series of deep dives on the most interesting startup companies continues this week, with the kickoff of our look at Expensify. Unlike some other companies we’ve profiled as part of our EC-1 series, like Tonal, perhaps, you’ve probably used Expensify’s software.

So you know the company in question. What you might not have known is just what a wild ride Expensify has been on during its startup life. From the introduction to the Expensify series, I present the following paragraph:

Most interestingly, this is a story about just not giving a damn about what anyone goddamn thinks, an approach to life and business that led to more than $100 million in annual revenue, and an IPO incoming on what looks to be a very quick timetable. Prodigious revenues, 10 million users and only 130 employees running the whole shebang — that’s a hell of an achievement in only 13 years.

You can read the first main piece here. The rest will be coming out over the next few weeks. Get hype!

Startups and venture capital

We have a lot to get through, so please excuse the following list of bullets:

4 lessons I learned about getting into Y Combinator (after 13 applications)

Can you imagine making 13 attempts at something before attaining a successful outcome?

Alex Circei, CEO and co-founder of Git analytics tool Waydev, applied 13 times to Y Combinator before his team was accepted. Each year, the accelerator admits only about 5% of the startups that seek to join.

“Competition may be fierce, but it’s not impossible,” says Circei. “Jumping through some hoops is not only worth the potential payoff but is ultimately a valuable learning curve for any startup.”

In an exclusive exposé for TechCrunch, he shares four key lessons he learned while steering his startup through YC’s stringent selection process.

The first? “Put your business value before your personal vanity.”

(Extra Crunch is our membership program, which helps founders and startup teams get ahead. You can sign up here.)

The tech giants

Tech’s bigger players have been busy today, giving us quite a lot to chew on. Facebook, for example, is taking fire from state lawyers arguing that its idea of building an Instagram for kids is a bad idea. Not that the complaints will stop Facebook from doing whatever it wants, but the level of criticism is notable. Facebook doesn’t have a lot of political goodwill to spend, these days.

Facebook is also following in Twitter’s footsteps in asking users to read articles before they share them. Because the world going digital has not yet stopped humans from being in need of chronic correction.

In order of descending market capitalization, Spotify is next on our list. The company is improving its social sharing capabilities, in essence boosting the ability of its users to share podcasts intelligently. As Sarah reports, “Spotify will also now allow users to share a time-stamped link to a podcast, which allows users to tune into a particular moment of the podcast episode.”

Thank everything, and it’s about time. Even if everyone who listens to my show uses Apple Podcasts.

Finally, enterprise storage, security and collaboration company Box is in the middle of a very public fight with an activist investor. In short, Box’s growth is slowing. While the company’s leadership is confident that it can restart its growth engine, outside parties want more control. Yoof.

Community

The fun thing about setting up something new like our Discord server is that it’s new. The tough thing about setting up something new (like the Discord server) is that it needs folks like you to come make it great. Join us! (New this week, a room about fintech and one dedicated to space!)

Bird reportedly prepares to go public via SPAC, aims for 2023 profitability

Micromobility startups are following the lead of EV companies going public via mergers with special purpose acquisition companies, a financial instrument that came back en vogue in 2020.

Bird Rides, the California-born micromobility company that now operates in more than 100 cities across the United States, Europe and the Middle East, plans to merge with Dallas-based blank-check company Switchback II Corporation, reports dot.LA. Switchback, the blank-check company merging with Bird, was formed in 2019 and led by former executives at oil and gas driller RSP Permian, Scott McNeill and Jim Mutrie.

Bird is the second scooter company this year to eschew the traditional IPO path and instead opt for the trendy SPAC tool. In February, Helbiz, a micromobilty startup in Europe and USA, also became a public company via SPAC in a merger with GreenVision Acquisition Corp. Many micromobility companies saw ridership fall during the pandemic last year, so we might expect to see more go the SPAC route in order have access to capital quickly, without the time or expense of a traditional IPO process. 

Bird has not responded to a request for comment. 

At the start of 2020, Bird was valued at $2.85 billion. It has had its struggles, particularly during the pandemic when revenue dropped to $95 million in 2020, a 37% decrease from the previous year, according to the pitch deck viewed by dot.LA. In 2020, Bird laid off 406 employees, or about 30% of its workforce, to cut costs.

The impending transaction valued the company at $2.3 billion below its valuation last year, according to the pitch deck. With this merger, Bird will have access to cash, which the company will likely use to pay off its debts and fund its European expansion in a push for profitability. Last month, the company announced intentions to spend $150 million to double its European operations by expanding to 50 new cities

The pitch deck reveals a number of other financial and ridership details. For instance, Bird expects to achieve profitability by 2023 after trimming this year’s losses to $96 million and next year’s to $28 million. It would also need to make $815 million in revenue in 2023 to be profitable, and the company expects to make $188 million this year. 

“The financials included in the slides reveal a company quickly burning through the $1.1 billion of cash it has raised since 2017, with a $226 million adjusted EBITA loss in 2019 and a $183 million loss last year,” writes dot.LA.

The pitch deck also shows ridership rebounds after the lockdown, with an 81% increase in topline revenue over the past month, but much of that could be attributed to springtime weather.

Bird is one of the three cities that recently won a permit to operate in New York City’s pilot e-scooter program in the Bronx, a win that might be contributing to the company’s future prospects, even as it lost bids for Paris, Chicago and San Francisco. As more cities are creating a favorable regulatory environment for shared micromobility, better hardware continues to emerge and the industry further consolidates, making high growth an achievable possibility for the company. 

Bloomberg first reported Bird’s conversations with Credit Suisse to go SPAC in November last year, and according to The Information, Bird has been raising $100 million in convertible debt from its existing investors, debt that could be converted into stock, but the company hasn’t confirmed the deal yet. 

Harley-Davidson spins out LiveWire into a standalone electric motorcycle brand

LiveWire, Harley-Davidson’s electric motorcycle, is being spun out as a standalone brand, complete with a new logo and brand identity.

Harley-Davidson first unveiled the LiveWire electric motorcycle in 2018 with a listing price of $29,799, placing it on the higher end for motorcycles. It went into production the following year, with some bumps, including a brief halt to production due to a charging-related problem on one of the motorcycles. The first “first LiveWire branded motorcycle” will launch on July 8. Its public debut will come a day later at the International Motorcycle Show, Harley-Davidson said Monday.

Dealers had trouble selling the bike to younger, newer motorcycle riders, Reuters reported in 2019. Part of the issue was the price, which is in the same category as a Tesla Model S, dealers told the news wire at the time. Given that Harley-Davidson’s core constituency is still Baby Boomers, who are beginning to age out of the products, the question is whether a new spin out and rebranding can attract younger (and affluent) riders.

The two companies will share technological advancements and LiveWire will “benefit from Harley-Davidson’s engineering expertise, manufacturing footprint, supply chain infrastructure, and global logistics capabilities,” Harley-Davidson said Monday.

LiveWire will have dedicated showroom locations, starting in California, and a “virtual” headquarters with hubs in Silicon Valley and Milwaukee.

Harley-Davidson is one of the most recognizable motorcycle makers in the country, but its sales have struggled in recent years. The company’s annual revenue dropped nearly 24% in 2020 compared to the previous year, though some of that is likely due to the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The company also cut 700 jobs from its global operations last summer, in a restructuring plan known as “The Rewire.”

More recently, the company debuted a five-year strategic plan dubbed “The Hardwire.” Included in the plan is to further invest in the electric market. The company has already started moving in this direction with the release last November of its Serial 1 Cycle e-bicycles. Its Rush/Cty Speed model can hit speeds of up to 28 mph and comes in at $5,000.

ServiceNow leaps into applications performance monitoring with Lightstep acquisition

This morning ServiceNow announced that it was acquiring Lightstep, an applications performance monitoring startup that has raised over $70 million, according to Crunchbase data. The companies did not share the acquisition price.

ServiceNow wants to take advantage of Lightstep’s capabilities to enhance its IT operations offerings. With Lightstep, the company should be able to provide customers with a way to monitor the performance of applications with the goal of detecting problems before the grow into major issues that take down a website or application.

“With Lightstep, ServiceNow will transform how software solutions are delivered to customers. This will ultimately make it easier for customers to innovate quickly. Now they’ll be able to build and operate their software faster than ever before and take the new era of work head on with confidence,” Pablo Stern, SVP & GM for IT Workflow Products at ServiceNow said in a statement.

Ben Sigelman, founder and CEO at Lightstep sees the larger organization being a good landing spot for his company. “We’ve always believed that the value of observability should extend across the entire enterprise, providing greater clarity and confidence to every team involved in these modern, digital businesses. By joining ServiceNow, together we will realize that vision for our customers and help transform the world of work in the process […], Sigelman said in a statement.

Lightstep is part of the application performance monitoring market with companies like DataDog, New Relic and AppDynamics, which Cisco acquired in 2017 the week before it was scheduled to IPO for $3.7 billion. It seems to be an area that is catching the interest of larger enterprise vendors, who are picking off smaller startups in the space.

Last November, IBM bought Instana, an APM startup and then bought Turbonomic for $2 billion at the end of last month as a complementary technology. Being able to monitor apps and keep them up and running is crucial, not only from a business continuity perspective, but also from a brand loyalty one. Even if the app isn’t completely down, but is running slowly or generally malfunctioning in some way, it’s likely to annoy users and could ultimately cause users to jump to a competitor. This type of software gives customers the ability to observe and detect problems before they have an impact on large numbers of users.

Lightstep, which is based in San Jose California, was founded in 2015. It raised $70 million from investors like Altimeter Capital, Sequoia, Redpoint and Harrison Metal. Customers include GitHub, Spotify and Twilio. The deal is expected to close this quarter.

Facebook is testing pop-up messages telling people to read a link before they share it

Years after popping open a pandora’s box of bad behavior, social media companies are trying to figure out subtle ways to reshape how people use their platforms.

Following Twitter’s lead, Facebook is trying out a new feature designed to encourage users to read a link before sharing it. The test will reach 6 percent of Facebook’s Android users globally in a gradual rollout that aims to encourage “informed sharing” of news stories on the platform.

Users can still easily click through to share a given story, but the idea is that by adding friction to the experience, people might rethink their original impulses to share the kind of inflammatory content that currently dominates on the platform.

Twitter introduced prompts urging users to read a link before retweeting it last June and the company quickly found the test feature to be successful, expanding it to more users.

Facebook began trying out more prompts like this last year. Last June, the company rolled out pop-up messages to warn users before they share any content that’s more than 90 days old in an an effort to cut down on misleading stories taken out of their original context.

At the time, Facebook said it was looking at other pop-up prompts to cut down on some kinds of misinformation. A few months later, Facebook rolled out similar pop-up messages that noted the date and the source of any links they share related to COVID-19.

The strategy demonstrates Facebook’s preference for a passive strategy of nudging people away from misinformation and toward its own verified resources on hot button issues like COVID-19 and the 2020 election.

While the jury is still out on how much of an impact this kind of gentle behavioral shaping can make on the misinformation epidemic, both Twitter and Facebook have also explored prompts that discourage users from posting abusive comments.

Pop-up messages that give users a sense that their bad behavior is being observed might be where more automated moderation is headed on social platforms. While users would probably be far better served by social media companies scrapping their misinformation and abuse-ridden existing platforms and rebuilding them more thoughtfully from the ground up, small behavioral nudges will have to do.

Voyager Space Holdings sets it sights on space stations with majority stake in Nanoracks

Voyager Space Holdings has added X.O. Markets, the parent of commercial space service venture Nanoracks, to its growing catalogue of space companies. The agreement was first announced last December.

This is Voyager’s fourth majority stake acquisition of a space company since its founding in October 2019, and it won’t be its last. Voyager CEO Dylan Taylor told TechCrunch that he anticipates the company will announce two to four more acquisitions this year. It’s an aggressive strategy but key to understanding Voyager’s business model.

“A lot of people confuse us with a fund or private equity strategy, or some kind of a financial instrument, for lack of a better word, and we’re really none of those things,” Taylor said. “We’re an operating company.”

Voyager wants to reach the same level of capability as the space “primes,” or primary companies, in seven to ten years. To get there, it’s pursued a majority stake in a series of space ventures to build out its portfolio of capabilities. Notably, Voyager has always never opted for 100% equity in these companies and it operates in a relatively decentralized way. These business decisions help keep innovation flourishing amongst Voyager’s many ventures, Taylor said.

The typical strategy in private equity – to purchase two competing companies, merge them, and sell them onto another financial buyer – doesn’t ultimately spur growth of the new space economy, he pointed out.

“[That strategy is] really not how you capture value in space,” he said. “You capture value in space by Capability A, marrying it with Capability B and unlocking a new Capability C that’s higher up on the food chain.”

The company also plans to go public via a traditional initial public offering sometime around the third quarter of this year. It anticipates filing the S-1 at some point this summer, Taylor said. He declined to provide further details of the recent acquisition.

Voyager’s previous major acquisitions have been with Pioneer Astronautics, an R&D company that performs, amongst other things, research into supporting life in space; advanced robotics startup Altius Space Machines; and The Launch Company, a launch support company that provides standardized hardware and equipment to launch providers.

The newest acquisition, Nanoracks, has been involved in more than 1,000 projects with the International Space Station, most importantly installing the first commercial airlock on the ISS. Last November, the company also entered into a partnership with the Abu Dhabi Investment Office to research agricultural solutions in challenging physical environments, like the desert – or space.

Perhaps the most interesting of Nanoracks’ endeavors is what it calls its Outpost program: building and operating completely commercial space stations out of the spent upper stages of launch vehicles and other space debris. Nanoracks will be launching a demonstration mission on board a SpaceX mission next month.

The four acquisitions taken together – launch support, advanced robotics, a research company, and now Nanoracks – clearly point to a future in which Voyager is primed to build and operate commercial space stations. While that future is still far off, it’s closer than one might think.

“The last ten years of the industry was defined by getting to orbit,” Taylor said. “I think the next 10 years will be about destinations. I think it’s highly likely we’re going to have somewhere between 8-12 space stations in orbit by 2030.”

State AGs tell Facebook to scrap Instagram for kids plans

In a new letter, attorneys general representing 44 U.S. states and territories are pressuring Facebook to walk away from new plans to open Instagram to children. The company is working on an age-gated version of Instagram for kids under the age of 13 that would lure in young users who are currently not permitted to use the app, which was designed for adults.

“It appears that Facebook is not responding to a need, but instead creating one, as this platform appeals primarily to children who otherwise do not or would not have an Instagram account,” the coalition of attorneys general wrote, warning that an Instagram for kids would be “harmful for myriad reasons.”

The state attorneys general call for Facebook to abandon its plans, citing concerns around developmental health, privacy and Facebook’s track record of prioritizing growth over the well being of children on its platforms. In the letter, embedded below, they delve into specific worries about cyberbullying, online grooming by sexual predators and algorithms that showed dieting ads to users with eating disorders.

Concerns about social media and mental health in kids and teens is a criticism we’ve been hearing more about this year, as some Republicans join Democrats in coalescing around those issues, moving away from the claims of anti-conservative bias that defined politics in tech during the Trump years.

Leaders from both parties have been openly voicing fears over how social platforms are shaping young minds in recent months amidst calls to regulate Facebook and other social media companies. In April, a group of Congressional Democrats wrote Facebook with similar warnings over its new plans for children, pressing the company for details on how it plans to protect the privacy of young users.

In light of all the bad press and attention from lawmakers, it’s possible that the company may walk back its brazen plans to boost business by bringing more underage users into the fold. Facebook is already in the hot seat with state and federal regulators in just about every way imaginable. Deep worries over the company’s future failures to protect yet another vulnerable set of users could be enough to keep these plans on the company’s back burner.

Activist investor Starboard Value makes official bid for Box board seats in letter

Last week activist investor Starboard delivered a public letter rebuking the company for what it perceives as under performance. Today the firm, which owns 8% of Box stock, making it the company’s largest stock holder, took it a step further with an official slate of four candidates it will be putting up at the next stockholder’s meeting.

While the company rehashed many of the same complaints as in last week’s letter, this week’s explicitly stated its intent to run its own slate of candidates for the Box board. “Therefore, in accordance with the Company’s governance deadlines and in order to preserve our rights as stockholders, we have delivered a formal notice to Box nominating four highly qualified director candidates (the “Nominees”) for election to the Board at the Annual Meeting,” Starboard wrote in a public letter to Box.

Box responded in a press release that the Board as currently constituted categorically rejects this attempt by Starboard to take over additional seats.

“The Box Board of Directors does not believe the changes to the Board proposed by Starboard are warranted or in the best interests of all stockholders. The Box Board has been consistently responsive to feedback from all of its stockholders, including suggestions from Starboard, and open-minded toward all value enhancing opportunities. Furthermore, Starboard’s statements do not accurately depict the progress Box has made,” the Board wrote in a statement this morning.

Box further points out that the company overhauled the Board last year with three new board members specifically receiving Starboard approval.

What is driving Starboard to take this action? Like any good activist investor it wants a higher stock price and is seeking for more growth from Box. Activist investors often come in and try to extract value by brute force when they perceive the company is under performing. The end game were they successful could involve removing Levie as CEO or more likely selling the company and grabbing its profit on the way out.

Box asserted that “Starboard’s statements do not accurately depict the progress Box has made,” highlighting some of its recent financial performance including “a $127 million increase in free cash flow in fiscal 2021.” The former private-market darling also argued that its fiscal 2021 “revenue growth rate plus free cash flow margin [came to more than] 26%,” which beat its own target of 25% and was “nearly double” what it managed in its fiscal 2020.

This is a good time for a ‘yes, but‘: Yes, but Box’s ability to improve its profitability does not change the fact that its growth rate has been in steady decline for years. And while a company’s growth rate can cover nearly any sin, slowing growth that has already slipped into the single digits doesn’t cut Box much slack. (For reference, in its most recent quarter, the fourth of its fiscal 2021, Box grew just 8% on a year-over-year basis.)

It’s worth noting that the company did promise “accelerated growth and higher operating margins in the years ahead” in its most recent earnings call, but the company’s recent $500 million investment from KKR particularly irked Starboard, which asserts that it was akin to ‘buying the vote.’

“[Box] made several poor capital allocation decisions, including its recent entry into a financing transaction that we believe serves no business purpose and was done in the face of a potential election contest with Starboard at the 2021 Annual Meeting of Stockholders.”

Now it’s becoming a battle over more board seats. Box is putting up Levie, Verisign CFO Dana Evan and Peter Leav, Chief Executive Officer of McAfee and former Chief Executive Officer of BMC.

Starboard nominees include Deborah S. Conrad, former executive at Intel; Peter A. Feld, Starboard’s head of research; John R. McCormack, former CEO of WebSense and Xavier D. Williams, a director of American Virtual Cloud Technologies.

The vote will take place at the Box stockholder’s meeting, which has traditionally been held in late June or early July. To this point, the company has not put out the exact date publicly.