Wherescape, a one-time hot IPO prospect has been quietly sold offshore, shortly after its consulting arm was bought by Spark.
The Auckland-based big-data company has been sold to a relatively obscure US outfit, Idera, for an undisclosed sum.
While neither Wherescape nor Idera will share details (Idera released a short statement and Wherescape nothing), but one veteran tech investor told the Herald it was a carve up, with Idera taking the intellectual property and Spark most staff.
Earlier this month, Spark revealed it had bought Wherescape's professional services arm, Now Consulting.
While no price was disclosed, Spark said Now Consulting was profitable.
Qurious took on 70 staff with the acquisition, taking its total headcount to 170.
Co-founder and chief executive Michael Whitehead was a major shareholder in Wherescape, but in Auckland-based venture-capital outfit Pioneer Capital took a 35 per cent holding.
At the time, Whitehead said Pioneer had paid "north of $10 million" for its stake.
By 2015, Pioneer had raised its stake to 43 per cent and Whitehead was openingly talking up a possible IPO. An NZX-listing was "absolutely being considered" he said.
Pioneer operating partner Matthew Houtman told the Herald that Wherescape revenue had increased by 25 per cent to $25m in 2015.
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Wherescape staff had almost doubled to 80; there were almost 650 customers worldwide for its software - which automated the process of building a "data warehouse" or huge repository of information about a company's customers, when extracting useful pointers about trends. They included giant UK retailer Tesco.
The company never got as far as a prospectus, but reports at the time saw a listing at a $90m valuation. For Pioneer, it was a frothy time, Orion Health still enjoying its IPO honeymoon, and another key investment, YikeBike being talked up by some as the personal transport of the future (e-bikes and e-scooters had yet to swarm over the horizon).
In 2016, Wherescape was named the Supreme Award winner at NZTE's International Business Awards.
But over time, talk of the IPO went cold, and the once relatively media-hungry Whitehead kept a lower profile.
But while Wherescape's star has dimmed, Spark sees its acquisition as a major boost for its Qrious unit, which forms part of a widening effort (think Lightbox and Spark Sport) to diversify away from its core business.
Qrious falls under Spark's other operating revenue line alongside the Morepork security services unit and Lightbox streaming service. That revenue was unchanged at $114m in the year ended June 30 and up from $96m in the 2017 year.
"Qrious is a market-leader in data, analytics, AI and data-powered customer engagement. These are all areas that NOW Consulting customers are increasingly demanding," Qrious chief executive Nathalie Morris said.
"For its part, NOW Consulting brings a wealth of expertise and capability in data integration, engineering and visualisation, an area where Qrious currently already successfully operates but one it has also identified as a key priority area to expand."
Spark has already beefed up Qrious through acquisition, buying marketing automation firm Ubiquity Software in 2017. While no price tag was disclosed, Qrious added $5 million of goodwill post the acquisition.
"We're responding to the growing demand from New Zealand companies for foundational data solutions and services that enable them to unleash intelligence and fast-track their access to the hidden wealth in their data," Qrious chief executive Nathalie Morris said.
Earlier this week, he told the Herald he could not talk about any aspect of the sale, citing wide-ranging confidentiality conditions.
Idera did not respond to a request for comment.