Wherescape injects new venture capital, with IPO still in offing

By WSQ
| April 28, 2015

Wherescape, the data warehousing company, has had a fresh injection of capital from its venture capital backer Pioneer Capital, but is still considering a public listing later in the year.

The Auckland-based company, whose customers include Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Spark New Zealand and Volvo, backed off an initial public offer last year following a spate of other growth company listings on the NZX. The Australian Financial Review said the company had planned a $40 million offer, valuing the company between $70 million and $90 million, but company co-founder and chief executive Michael Whitehead said it had not got that far down the track.

While the timing proved wrong last year, the advantages of an IPO at some stage include improved liquidity and greater credibility with offshore customers, Whitehead said. “Dealing with an unlisted company in New Zealand is quite different to a listed organisation they know will have governance. That’s a huge part of the reason for looking at it. We’ll assess it again at the end of our financial year – at the end of March,” he said.

Meanwhile, Pioneer Capital, which injected around $10 million for a 35.54 per cent stake in November 2013, invested another tranche last month to lift its stake to 43 percent. In November Whitehead also bought out the shareholding of his co-founder Wayne Richmond, upping his stake to 47.46 percent.

Matt Houtman, Pioneer Capital co-founder and Wherescape director, said the business had performed “exceptionally well” since the venture capital company first invested in it, with revenue up 50 percent. Whitehead said revenue had increased from $20 million in the 2014 financial year to at least $25 million this financial year.

Founded in 2002, Wherescape is in the growing ‘big data’ space. It develops data warehousing products that allow organisations to source screeds of information from various IT systems and to organise and analyse it. Originally started as a business intelligence consultancy within New Zealand, Wherescape pivoted a few years ago to also providing software products globally that help make business decisions faster and more cheaply.

Houtman said delaying an IPO has given Wherescape more time to execute on its strategy to increase software distribution infrastructure offshore, including hiring more salespeople and securing the right partnership relationships. “We see the software side of the business getting bigger and the New Zealand consulting business staying about the same.” Staff numbers have doubled over the past couple of years to around 100. Some 67 percent of revenue is now derived offshored and Wherescape has just opened an office in Singapore and is expanding staff into more US states and from the UK into mainland Europe. The company spends 15 percent of revenue on research and development and Whitehead said two research and development grants from Callaghan Innovation, including one last year for $650,000 over three years, have also helped accelerate software development.

He threatened to move the profitable company to Australia if National scrapped Labour’s R&D tax credits but he says the new R&D grants amount to the same thing – taking out some of the upfront risk and cost of developing software before it’s onsold. “It’s allowed us to improve the product and our average sale price on our software products has lifted automatically by about 100 percent. Previously we were targeting medium to large companies in New Zealand and now we’re able to target medium to large companies globally,” Whitehead said.

Additional enterprise features added into its products include scalability and being able to handle a greater number of users, big data integration, and increased security and governance. The latter was critical to winning four deals in the past few months with US health insurance providers, including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, Highmark, Central California Alliance for Health and Health Group, which operate under strict regulations around protecting the confidentiality and security of healthcare information.

Originally posted in the NBR, Wednesday January 14, 2015; by Fiona Rotherham

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