Executing a successful IPO
Venture Investor In Newly Public QlikTech Counsels Patience
Executing a successful IPO in the current market is no mean feat, but Qlik Technologies Inc., or QlikTech, accomplished it last week when it debuted on the Nasdaq, pricing above its range at $10 a share and notching a 20% rise on its first day of tradin.
The business intelligence company started in Sweden in 1993, and Accel Partners and Jerusalem Venture Partners backed it in 2004 with an eye toward turning it into an international play. We talked to Erel Margalit, founder and chairman of JVP, about what it takes to get a company public nowadays. Here is an edited version of the interview:
Q: Did you always have in mind that this
company would go public one day?
A: We work in the venture business and it takes time
until you create a good company, and not all your
companies are good companies. Once a company is
a good company, then the question is whether it can
become a great company. And part of this greatness usually involves some form of independence at least for the time that
QlikTech impressed me, and I know that it impressed (Accel’s) Bruce Golden and some of the other people who were on
the board, as a company that has a very strong character and very ambitious individuals around the table. Once you
identify that and you think about the space that they’re in, even though some of it is perceived to be dominated by very
large players, you ask yourself whether the space could be revolutionized and whether this company could be at the
center of it.
The two things that impressed me are that the space was very interesting and really needed a new pioneer in the way we manage data and turn data into knowledge in an organization. And the other aspect was the DNA, the management of the company, which seemed to be learning and growing as they go and reaching different levels of managerial capability.
Q: When did you decide that going public was the route to go?
A: I think the realization that this could be a candidate for a public company was as long as two years ago. The company was growing very consistently. It was very clear that the company would need quite a bit of time to prepare itself if it’s going to do it right. The board and the management were not in haste. I think that once the goal was set, it sort of sets a standard for how you’d like to manage the company and see the company internally and externally. And many things aligned around it when people feel that they’re going to go to the next level.
For any company that you think is good and could become great, I think that, even if it takes time, I think that it’s important for the VCs to help management align the company towards the new way it would need to be managed and see itself as a public company.
Q: Why go public in the U.S.?
A: I don’t think Nasdaq is necessarily the place for good smaller companies if they don’t come from the U.S. But if companies have time to scale in a significant way, then I don’t think there’s a better market that would get you the visibility of such quality institutional investors as Nasdaq.
Q: In this market, did you have to do anything special to position the company?
A: Cautiously. The markets are tough. A lot of the reasons why the markets are tough are not internal to the fundamentals of the company but rather macroeconomic. I think the market is trying to teach itself to move forward while there are macro issues that need to be solved. The challenge is to let people know what to expect of you in a challenging market. One tries to carve a golden path to move forward cautiously.
Q: Do you have any advice for companies that are thinking about going public?
A: First of all, there’s an honest question to be asking about whether the company should be a public company and whether it really has intentions to continue to grow and be profitable for the longer duration because if not, it probably doesn’t makes sense for the company to go public. It’s hard to plan on snatching an IPO. You need to remember that a public offering is not a transaction, it’s a transformation. The management and the main shareholders need to be ready for that. I would just be honest with myself as a shareholder even if a company is reaching some scale. If those management and shareholders just want to get out, then the public offering is probably not the best way to do that.
I would say that companies and management and shareholders need to be smart about transitioning the shareholder base to people that have patience if they’re going to go public. It doesn’t need to be everyone, maybe it’s partial. The company needs to operate in a way that worries about itself and its growth, and not about giving this or that investor liquidity in the next six months.