This article originally appeared in The Seattle Times by Boaz Herzog
Limeade, a Bellevue software company, debuted as a public company last week by raising $100 million — Australian — in its IPO. That’s worth $68.75 million in U.S. dollars.
The company, which sells software to firms seeking to boost well-being, engagement and inclusion among employees, completed its initial public offering of stock on the Australian Securities Exchange, or ASX.
When the IPO became official Thursday afternoon, Limeade CEO Henry Albrecht toastedcolleagues at the company’s headquarters in Bellevue — almost 8,000 miles from the exchange in Sydney.
Albrecht conceded in an interview that he wasn’t too familiar with the ASX when representatives reached out to him in the spring to offer it as an IPO listing option.
“But the more we looked it at it, the more we found it was a perfect fit for our financing needs,” Albrecht said. “They’ve taken a really modern look at how to be a matchmaker between capital and innovation.”
Australia is becoming a more popular destination for U.S. firms seeking IPOs. At least 46 U.S. firms, including several technology startups, have listed their IPOs on the ASX, and more are open to looking down under to raise capital, according to consulting firm BDO, which did not advise Limeade in its IPO.
The percentage of foreign IPOs on the exchange has been growing steadily, from about 2.5% in 2008 to around 25% in 2016, 2017 and 2018, BDO says.
Aftab Jamil, a BDO partner and national leader in its technology investor group, said he wouldn’t be surprised if the rate continues to climb. An IPO listing in Australia can bring small and even medium-size startups more exposure than in the U.S., where a company seeking an IPO on Nasdaq typically has more than $100 million in revenue, Jamil said.
“Unless you have a certain size, it can at times be challenging to drum up investor and media interest ahead of and post an IPO on the Nasdaq,” he said in a BDO blog post.
Plus, the regulatory burdens for public companies are “a little simpler” in Australia, and the cost of being a public company is about 35% to 40% lower there than in the U.S., Jamil said.
Albrecht concurred. “The efficiency and cost of an ASX IPO is very company-friendly,” he said.
Limeade’s IPO listing on the ASX also jibes with the company’s plans to grow abroad, including in the Asia-Pacific region, Albrecht said. Currently, it has more than 230 employees and offices in Bellevue, Canada, and Germany. Its 176 customers as of Sept. 30 include the state of Washington, Keurig, and two of the top five global airlines.
The company, founded by Albrecht in 2006, is expecting $47 million in revenue this year and a net loss of $6.2 million. It forecasts $56.1 million in revenue next year, with its net loss doubling to $12.4 million.
Limeade’s IPO gave it an initial market capitalization of A$490.8 million (U.S. $335 million).
The challenge for U.S. companies with an ASX listing will be to maintain their relationships with investors in Australia, Jamil said. He called it “perhaps a necessity” for executives to meet them in person at least a few times a year.
Albrecht said he and finance chief Toby Davis are “excited about getting down there frequently” to visit investors despite the long plane rides to get there.
“I view that as a positive: staying connected to markets is educational,” he said. “It should help us learn and help them stay in tune to our business.”
There weren’t any Limeade workers in Australia to celebrate the IPO, Albrecht said. But Limeade’s senior executive team, several board members, and other workers plan to fly there sometime in the first three months of 2020, coinciding with the company’s release of its 2019 financial results.
The trip will include an IPO celebration, Albrecht said, complete with an official bell ringing on the ASX in Sydney.