Market whispers have started to emerge that Auckland-based Vend could be New Zealand's next big tech IPO.
An investment banking source told the Herald that a listing was on the cards, with the software company advised by local Deutsche Bank affiliate Craigs Investment Partners.
Vend makes cloud-based point-of-sale software that lets a laptop or iPad replace a traditional cash register, and also helps small-to-medium businesses manage sales and inventory.
The 10-year-old company has been growing quickly over the past couple of years, and now has more than 25,000 paying customers worldwide - with most paying between $129 to $179 per month, putting its annual revenue in the $39 million to $54m range.
Its early investors include Peter Thiel and Sam Morgan.
The company's last big round was a US$9 raise in 2016 led by local venture capital outfit Movac, which is the largest single shareholder with a 9 per cent stake.
That raise was at a US$100m valuation.
At a press briefing in May, chief executive Alex Fala was putting his best foot forward.
The CEO would not share any financials, but say he expected Vend to hit a $1 billion valuation within five years.
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He also revealed plans to hire 125 more staff, which would take the company's total complement to more than 400.
The extra bodies will be part of a push into North Ameria and other markets.
With Fala throwing around big numbers and continued rapid expansion on the cards, Vend fits the IPO mould. Its numbers are in the same neighbourhood as two recent NZX tech success stories, Vista Group and Pushpay, around the time of their listings.
But in May, the CEO told the Herald that strong organic growth meant there was no pressing need for another private raise.
And last week, he played down the listing talk. He said through a rep, "There is often speculation on this topic, but we have no definite plans at this stage to IPO."
Founder and major shareholder Vaughan Fergusson said, "We are always looking at options but have no hard plans."
Lance Wiggs - whose Punakaiki Fund has a 2 per cent holding in Vend - offered the more elliptical, "There is a large gap between listed and private multiples at the moment in NZ. Private multiples are much lower than public ones, and we should be seeing a steady stream of larger New Zealand SaaS [software-as-a-service or cloud] and tech companies listing.
"Unfortunately, we are not yet seeing this happen so the market stands to be very surprised at the scale and value when companies eventually do list or sell."
In the meantime, one of Vend's immediate points of focus is the US market, where it has launched strategic partnerships with ten of the largest payment processors in North
America, including WorldPay, CardConnect, Evo and North American Bancard following a successful trial.
Vend targets bricks-and-mortar stores. It doesn't any solution for web-only sellers. But while many malls are feeling the pinch as online shopping grows, Fala notes there's also a trend toward the likes of hot etailers from Amazon to Allbirds opening real-life stores.
And while we're heading to a world of mobile payments and Facebook coin, Fala maintains there will always be a place for Vend, especially in its wide role of helping small-to-medium retailers manage their sales and stock by using a mobile as a barcode scanner and other tricks.
The tech industry is full of companies that got speed wobbles after bringing on too many staff, too fast, and planning came unstuck. Vend was one of them, mid-decade.
Fala - an alumnus of the buttoned-down McKinsey & Co who succeeded founder Fergusson in 2016 - says Vend learned from its earlier experience.
He adds it's now a mature company with better systems in place, and one that now has experienced leaders running its offshore offices including ex-telco executive Butch Langlois, who runs its North American operation, based in Toronto, Unilever and Amex veteran Higor Torchia, who runs Europe and HR boss Shirvani Mudaly (ex BNZ and Yellow).
Fala has clearly whipped the company into shape for something - but whether it's an IPO, a trade-sale or just more sleeves-rolled-up private growth remains to be seen.