E-commerce and online store software company Shopify began selling its shares to the public on Thursday, raising $131 million from an offering that values the company at $1.3 billion.
The public offering comes at time when interest in tech stocks is at a record high. It's also the first billion-dollar company to have an IPO since Etsy went public in April. While that company's stock has struggled in its early days, all eyes will be on Shopify to prove whether so-called startup unicorns are ready for public life.
For Shopify's part, the IPO caps a decade of increasing success for the Ottawa, Canada-based company. It's also a turning point for the company, which executives said is just the beginning for the founder-run company.
“We are very excited,” Harley Finkelstein, chief platform officer of Shopify said on Thursday morning. “For the last couple of weeks, and throughout the roadshow, investor interest was really strong, and for us we think this is just the next chapter for the company.”
Shopify priced its shares at $17 on Wednesday night, a dollar more than the top range it had indicated in a filing with the SEC earlier in the week. It began trading on the New York Stock Exchange, and by mid-day its share price had increased nearly 50 percent to $25.27.
Shopify, an Inc. 35 Under 35 company for 2014, was founded by Tobias Lütke and Daniel Weinand, both computer engineers from Germany.
The duo said they inadvertently co-founded Shopify in 2004 because they wanted to sell snowboards and other winter gear from their online shop in Ottawa. But they were disappointed by the suite of tools available to them to build an online presence, as well as to sell and keep track of inventory.
In Shopify, they’ve designed a simple, affordable one-stop shop that lets entrepreneurs design their online stores. The platform also facilitates sales in brick-and-mortar stores by turning an iPad into a point-of-sale machine. It further integrates front and back operations with accounting software and inventory management.
The next phase for the company is enabling and integrating e-commerce sales on any platform where transactions are possible, including desktop, mobile, and through social media sites.
“We want to allow merchants to sell anywhere they have customers,” Finkelstein says.
Since 2010, Shopify has raised $122 million in funding in three rounds, including from venture capital companies Bessemer Venture Partners and FirstMark Capital.
To be sure, the company hasn't logged much in the way of profit in the past couple of years. The company has been losing money as it pursues a growth strategy, Finkelstein says. For the first quarter of 2015, it reported a net loss of $4.5 million from revenue of $37.3 million. Sales have nearly doubled compared to the first quarter of 2014, however. Its losses have decreased nearly 30 percent over the same time period.
More than 165,000 stores around the world use Shopify today, the company reports. But there's surely room for growth.
"Commerce follows the latest trends extremely closely, and a company that enables commerce needs to be extremely nimble and innovative,” Lütke told Inc. in an earlier interview.