My struggles with the IPO process

The challenge

You can actually go quite far into the IPO process and then in retrospect realise you haven't been getting very far.

We did pre-marketing with an investment bank, which meant we went with the investment bank to six institutional investors, pension funds. The key was that if the pension fund said they were interested, the investment bank would be interested. But those advisors would rather they invested a bit of time and effort in getting us to see those pension funds, that they went to get validation, before they went to the next step.

So it looks as though you're getting really far through the process but actually you're just getting through one hurdle to get to the next one.
Your advisory team is always very concerned with reputation too.

The solution

It was worth it, despite the long-windedness.

Being a public company improved our visibility with our customer base, and it improved our credibility. So big companies can say: "This is a good company, they're different from the others, they're financially stable and they're transparent."

The next thing is that it gives employees a real sense of ownership. A lot of private companies give stock options to their employees, but for those people who lived through the dotcom crash, and those people that have worked for private companies with stock options, stock options mean nothing. Stock options are a document that you print out and, unless the company is sold in certain circumstances, you're going to get nothing out of it.

Whereas if you're in a public company, you can look on the Yahoo Finance website or wherever and see what your share options are worth, and it they have real tangible value. Which can be a very motivating influence on your employees - particularly if your share prices go up.

Finally, it does give you a platform to raise more money with relatively few conditions.

Key lesson

Your company has to be IPO-worthy. That means that it has to be big enough, and there has to be an opportunity of making money for investors and everybody else.

Top tip

You need to have the base structures and processes and people in place to actually be worthy of becoming a public company - even for things as basic as having the tools in place to do quarterly and half-year reporting.

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