Can Aussie Venture Capital-backed IPO’s brush off the negativity around US unicorns going public?
Link copied to
Late last month, co-working space outfit WeWork pulled its planned US IPO when investors turned squeamish over its valuations.
At the same time, shares in ride-share groups such as Uber and Lyft wallow well below their issue price which has prompted fears — perhaps justified — that the rush of venture capital funds into start-ups may have peaked.
If so, no one has told AirTree Ventures, which has just raised another $275 million to invest in Australian and New Zealand start-ups.
Venture capital-backed IPO’s are typically new business outfits working to develop new markets without legacy operations.
Among AirTree’s winners is Canva, whose valuation is now approaching $5 billion.
To date, just one of the entities AirTree has backed – Prospa (ASX:PGL) — has IPO’d on the ASX.
It issued shares at $3.78, recovered from early lows of $3.50, and now trades at around $4.
Another VC-backed entity to float on the ASX was fintech hopeful Splitit (ASX:SPT).
It went public at 20c, came back for more money at 80c, soaking up part of its post-IPO gains but with its shares now holding at around 90c, they are still well below its post-IPO highs of $1.60.
Still, a trading update earlier this month helped propel the shares sharply higher, for now.
The other local venture capital start-up to IPO on the ASX was translation outfit Straker (ASX:STG), which was backed by David Kirk’s listed investment company Bailador.
It went public a year ago at $1.51, with its shares hitting the market during a market downswing, which pushed its shares well below the IPO price. It took until six months ago — the second half of April — before the shares rebounded to top its IPO price.
Now the wait is on for Bailador’s next ‘realisation’ event, with the focus now on home grown ‘Unicorn’ SiteMinder — the online engine that sits between Internet hotel booking sites such as Booking.com, Expedia, Airbnb, TripAdvisor, and the like, and hotels touting for business.
A unicorn is a private company with an implied paper-valuation of $1 billion-plus.
SiteMinder’s annual revenue has topped $100 million, and the lift in its value has resulted in around half of Bailador’s total worth residing in its slice of SiteMinder’s equity.
“The fortunes of SiteMinder are going to have a huge influence on Bailador,” the investment company’s director Paul Wilson told shareholders this week.
Run by the former Xero chief financial officer Sankar Narayan, SiteMinder is three times the size of its nearest competitor and is winning nine new clients for every loss.
It typically charges hotels $120 a month to handle their room bookings and is also extending its offering into payment products while also developing an ‘eco-system’ by allowing third party software onto its platform.
“It is the best Australian tech company you’ve never heard of,” Mr Wilson said.
“The only way you can get access to SiteMinder is through Bailador.
“We’re spending a lot of time working with SiteMinder on moving towards a liquidity event.”
Bailador has indicated it is moving to pay a franked dividend to shareholders this financial year, signalling optimism that SiteMinder could either go public or introduce new capital which could give Bailador the opportunity to take some money off the table.
It may only be a small sample, but VC-backed entities coming to the ASX have found favour compared with private equity-backed entities going public – which have a woeful post-IPO track record.
Private equity typically restructures existing businesses, putting on a new lick of paint before passing the parcel to the next investor.
This is best exemplified by Dick Smith, the electronics and electrical goods retailer which went bust not long after going public. Ditto for Myer, the department store group, although it has recently found some investor support.