Canadian tech unicorn Hootsuite just came a step closer to an IPO - but would consider further private fundraising too

 
Lynsey Barber
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A platform for all social networks, Hootsuite's CEO calls it the "social media Switzerland" (Source: Hootsuite)
ootsuite, one of only two so-called tech unicorns in Canada, has revealed that it's generating cash for the first time, bringing it a step closer to going public.


A social media tool which lets users, including businesses such as Virgin and Accor Hotels, manage accounts as well as social ad campaigns from a single dashboard, Hootsuite has passed the milestone which chief executive Ryan Holmes had said it needed to achieve before considering an IPO.

However, speaking to City A.M., the entrepreneur said all options are still on the table, and that could include a new round of funding, as the eight year old startup is now in a position to consider its own timetable now it's cash flow positive.

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"There's lots of speculation on the future of the tech IPO market. I think it's good, but we can choose a timing that works for us - we'll choose the optimal time," said Holmes.

A series of successful tech IPOs in recent weeks has perked up investors after a chill in the market.

Japanese messaging app Line was the biggest tech IPO of the year in July, valuing the firm at $9bn, following hot on the heels of Twilio which was valued at $2bn on its market debut, both following a drought in tech companies listing in the US. Not a single one IPOd in the first quarter of 2016, a situation not seen since the height of the financial crisis in the same period in 2009.

But, despite the more favourable environment, Hootsuite is not in any rush to jump into the public market.

Backed by top Silicon Valley investors to the tune of $250m dollars, giving it a valuation of more than one billion dollars, Hootsuite has actively tightened the purse strings - or introduced more "cash discipline" in Holmes' words - and increased revenue, hitting its goal of generating cash earlier than expected.

Hiring a number of senior executives, including a finance chief, cutting costs on marketing and software and making a small number of staff cuts, propelled the company past the milestone, balancing "high growth and a path to profitability", said Holmes, where other highly valued companies focus only on the former.

With that new discipline, it is already putting in place the right mechanisms and systems when it comes to finances for scrutiny as a public company in the future.

Read more: The way we message now: Text and email decline with the rise of WhatsApp

A writedown from one of its investors earlier this year has not set Hootsuite back either. Fidelity marked down the value of several of its stakes in startups, including Snapchat and Pinterest.

"We were one of the companies that was caught in that writedown - public markets went down and private investors applied that same thinking to its private portfolio, which doesn't necessarily make sense," said Holmes, anticipating that the asset manager would sit on its remaining stake until it goes public.

"I don't expect that they will [now increase the stake]. Unlike the public markets it's a mix of art and magic with valuations which are very easy in public to dictate. It comes down to forecasting," he said.

The "social media Switzerland" which incorporates more than 200 different social networks and other tools such as Google Drive and Drobox will continue to grow the business and service clients for now, adding to its 14m users across 175 countries, including 2,500 enterprise customers, 800 of them Fortune 1000 companies.

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