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Lightspeed beefs up board as it moves forward with IPO plans
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By SEAN SILCOFF
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Monday, November 12, 2018 – Print Edition, Page B1


MONTREAL -- Montreal software firm Lightspeed POS Inc. is gearing up for an initial public offering, with the firm selecting banks to lead the deal and adding new directors with experience inside publicly traded technology companies.

The company, which sells software to the retail and restaurant sectors, picked the capital markets units of Bank of Montreal and National Bank of Canada to co-lead an offering on the Toronto Stock Exchange, according to sources familiar with Lightspeed's plans, who were not authorized to speak publicly. J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. is also involved as an underwriter.

These sources say Lightspeed intends to sell at least $200-million of stock and hopes to achieve a valuation of more than $1-billion.The target date for the IPO is next spring, though plans are still in the early stages.

Lightspeed CEO Dax Dasilva has said previously he hoped to go public by early 2019.

In a wide-ranging interview at the company's headquarters last week, Mr. Dasilva declined to comment on the company's current IPO plan nor did he confirm a process was under way. He said: "Our stated goal was to be IPOready in this calendar year and we're well on that path."

The company on Monday is set to announce a step in that direction as it adds four directors to its board, including former Google chief financial officer Patrick Pichette, who is a general partner with Lightspeed backer iNovia Capital Inc., and former Open Text Corp. chief financial officer Paul McFeeters. Lightspeed hired Brandon Nussey, former CFO of publicly traded Descartes Systems Group Inc., as its finance chief this year.

Mr. Pichette said in an interview he had offers to join several large Canadian corporate boards, but chose Lightspeed because "I pick companies that really can be the next global champion."

Technology IPOs are in vogue, following successful offerings this year by Spotify Technology SA and others, with giants Uber Technologies Inc. and Palantir Technologies Inc. reportedly set to follow in 2019. By contrast, the last notable Canadian tech IPO, by online mortgage services firm Real Matters Inc. in 2017 has not gone well for investors, while Mississauga's PointClickCare Technologies Inc. delayed its IPO plans, raising private equity capital instead.

Lightspeed underwent a recapitalization last year when the Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec bought out Silicon Valley venture capital firm Accel Partners' minority stake and poured additional money into the company for a total investment of US$136-million. It was the Quebec pension giant's largest bet on an emerging Canadian tech firm since the dot-com bubble and enabled Mr. Dasilva to continue pursuing his dream of building an independent, Canadian-based global company, rather than sell the firm, as Accel preferred. "Going forward, it's a great investment for the Caisse," said Tom Birch, vice-president of funds and technology with the Caisse.

Mr. Dasilva, 42, the son of Ugandan refugees who settled in Vancouver in the 1970s, started Lightspeed in 2005 to provide software for retailers to manage their operations modelled after the ease-ofuse of Apple Inc.'s iTunes media platform. The company grew rapidly after offering its software on mobile devices and over the cloud, enabling independent retailers and restaurants to manage inventory, accounting and offer self-service customer ordering, analytics and point-of-sale functions across multiple channels.

Now, the firm, which has 680 employees and is based in a converted 19th-century Canadian Pacific chateau hotel, is set to add payments processing within the next year. That could significantly boost revenues, which Lightspeed declined to disclose. (A year ago, it disclosed that it has 50,000-plus customers and handles $15-billion in annual gross merchandise volume, but declined to provide an update to those.)

Its customers now use thirdparty payment processing services. Customers "want to work with one vendor," Mr. Dasilva said. "I think the one-stop, all-in-one solution is why we're successful and we need to make payments be the same level of value as all the other things we [offer as a] single vendor."

This has also been a big year personally for Mr. Dasilva, one of the few openly gay CEOs of a large-scale tech company - or any prominent Canadian company, for that matter. Lightspeed started in Montreal's Gay Village, drawing its initial employees and customers from the LGBT community.

But only this year has Mr. Dasilva, like Apple CEO Tim Cook, emerged as a public role model in an industry that is known as a laggard on diversity issues, giving the keynote address at Toronto's LGBT-oriented Venture Out technology conference and winning an award from Start Proud, formerly known as Out on Bay Street.

"It's a new thing for me to speak about [Lightspeed's LGBT roots] publicly," Mr. Dasilva said.

"The company has always been very out. There's no denying that's a huge part of our DNA. But in the past year it's really been amplified... Do people really want to hear about 'Tech Company grew X per cent' and that's the end of the story? That's not the end of my story. I'm proud to have this be a Canadian tech success story ... but this is also a great diversity story and I think tech can have the opportunity to set a different tone."

Associated Graphic

Dax Dasilva, left, founder and chief executive of Lightspeed, meets with content manager Elina Barklon, centre, at the company's office in Montreal on Friday.

DARIO AYALA/THE GLOBE AND MAIL


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