Ten years after its founding, the online marketplace for handmade goods went public in April. Etsy’s IPO represents much more than a cash prize, though: It brings validation to New York’s tech-startup scene, where IPOs are scarce (and where the last significant financial success was Yahoo’s $1.1 billion acquisition of N.Y.C.–based Tumblr in 2013). Because Etsy is a B Corporation—a company that follows social-good guidelines established by the not-for-profit B Lab—the public offering could also potentially fuel more interest among investors toward socially conscious companies. (Etsy offers employees paid time for volunteering, for example.) “Etsy’s strength as a business and community comes from its uniqueness in the world, and we intend to preserve it,” CEO Chad Dickerson said in a blog post the day of the IPO. “We don’t believe that people and profit are mutually exclusive.”
Milestones: Revenue growth remains strong: 44% in its first quarter and 56% last year. Of the more than 1,000 existing B Corporations, Etsy is only the second to go public. (The first was Boulder, Colorado–based Rally Software in 2013.)
Challenges: Investors worried about a bubble do not look kindly on unprofitable tech companies, as Etsy’s $36.6 million loss in its first quarter proved (its stock lost 20% of its value in a day); merchants are worried that the company will improve margins by taking a higher commission.
“Etsy has become a touch point of debate for whether the human-centered craftsmanship we support is compatible with being a public company.”
— Chad Dickerson, CEO, Etsy, via the company’s blog
Milestones: Coca-Cola made waves last spring by serving Coke Zero from the first drinkable billboard ad.
Challenges: The company lost its 28-year NBA sponsorship to Pepsi in April, adding urgency to an austerity plan that included more than 1,500 job cuts.
“We want iconic stuff to work on, but we think you can be nice and do that too.”
— Susie Nam, General manager and head of accounts, Droga5
Milestones: Over the past year, ad agency Droga5 has landed big accounts like Toyota and upped its staff by 150. Its stirring gender-equality campaign “Not Here,” created for the Clinton Foundation, went viral.
Challenges: Yogurt giant and longtime Droga5 client Chobani announced in March that it’s moving marketing efforts in-house.
Milestones: In May, the company announced a chain of stores for budget-conscious millennials.
Challenges: Recent price-lowering efforts might not fend off Kroger and Walmart, which have launched cheap organic lines of their own.
“Once we get people to realize they really can protect themselves, then you get a lot more buy-in from the population.”
— Dr. Kelly Henning, Head of public health programs, Bloomberg Philanthropies
Milestones: The former New York City mayor’s not-for-profit announced in January that it would invest an additional $125 million in the Global Safety Initiative, giving aid to 10 cities around the world—including Shanghai and Addis Ababa, Ethiopia—to build more pedestrian-friendly roadways and run media campaigns to raise awareness about preventing accidents.
Challenges: Citizens in impoverished areas often view traffic accidents, which kill an estimated 1.24 million people per year, as unpreventable “acts of God.”
Milestones: Buoyed by a new line of telepresence robots—including the Ava 500, which currently roams the offices of AT&T—iRobot’s Q1 revenue and earnings beat expectations. According to FCC documents, a robotic lawn mower is in development.
Challenges: Radio astronomers have already rallied against the lawn mower, claiming that the radio-frequency fence it uses to keep from wandering away interferes with tools the scientists use to track the birth of stars.