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Lightspeed CEO Dax Dasilva on why going public was just a step, not an end

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Now that the company is public, Lightspeed CEO and co-founder Dax Dasilva is more energized than ever. What some would consider an end unto itself – going public, cashing in, and bringing on more governance to help run the company – Dasilva says is just a stepping stone for the company to become a global acquirer and power player.

Speaking with Tech Daily, Dasilva recounted the three phases of Lightspeed’s growth, from bootstrapped startup, to funded venture, and now to public company.

 

Lightspeed POS bootstrapped

“For the first seven years, we bootstrapped the company,” said Dasilva. “It was a different type of software. It was serving the same customer – small business, retail, and restaurants – but it wasn’t cloud-based.”

With no outside funds, Lightspeed was a classic bootstrapped company that lived or died by its revenues. For Dasilva, an environmental activist and proud member of the LGBTQ+ community, it meant he had the opportunity to build a diverse team from the start, something he notes is critical for any startup to succeed.

“From the beginning of the Lightspeed story, we have valued different kinds of viewpoints and perspectives,” said Dasilva. “So that’s created a culture of true diversity and inclusion as more people were brought into the company… that enriched the company and the kinds of solutions the company comes up with.”

After gaining traction and seeing where demand was headed, though, Dasilva realized that the market needed more. Ultimately, he saw the entire market heading towards cloud-based solutions, and he wanted Lightspeed to be at the forefront of that shift. To get there would require venture capital.

 

Venture-backed Lightspeed

In their history as a private company, Lightspeed raised over $300 million, said Dasilva, a time he describes as “hyper growth” for the company.

“That was the second seven years,” said Dasilva. “In that period, we went to an even greater level of growth. We also did a number of acquisitions that helped us be the player in cloud for complex small and medium sized businesses.”

Becoming an acquirer was enticing to Dasilva and Lightspeed, since the market, according to Dasilva, was not cohesive at all.

“In every single [country], there’s a different competitor for retail and a different competitor for restaurants; it’s very fragmented,” Dasilva said.

Acquisitions and growth were going well for the company, which pulled in $72 million in revenue in 2018, according to BetaKit reporting. However, the strategy was difficult to execute on a larger scale, since Dasilva said that many of their acquisitions involve some stock. As a private company, valuations were debatable at best, and disastrous to the deal at worst. The company needed to go public.

 

Public challenger Lightspeed

“The next logical step for us to continue to execute on our strategy was to do a public offering,” said Dasilva. “We really felt that for our segment, there’s no global leader or go-to brand. The legacy players never made it to the cloud.”

Without cloud technology, Dasilva said that incumbent players could not serve the “modern consumer” since “the way we shop, dine, and find physical businesses is completely changed”.

Going public was not just about financing to acquire more companies and fuel growth, though. The company could have easily raised more private funds for that. Listing on the public markets was about transparency on valuation, so acquisitions could go more smoothly and acquired companies receiving stock have a clear understanding of the value they are getting.

At this point in the company’s history, Dasilva is even happier that he prioritized diversity early on. The company continues to grow and acquire other companies around the world, and integrating them was made much easier by the fact that Lightspeed has a diverse team.

“Diversity really helped as we acquired companies,” said Dasilva. “As we acquire a company, they’re going to be a whole new culture that we bring into the company. That’s new ways of communicating, new ways of reaching consensus, and new ways that we can learn and improve the way that we operate.”

The other reason Dasilva is happy about being public, though, is far more Canadian in nature. The Montreal-based company is excited to be a global player, of course, but they are particularly excited that they did a listing solely on the Toronto Stock Exchange (TSX).

“It was assumed that in order to get volume [on your IPO] you’d have to list on both the TSX and NASDAQ, or TSX and the New York Stock Exchange,” said Dasilva. “The Lightspeed IPO was TSX only and was successful. That’s proven to us, and to the ecosystem, that we can take companies public in this country alone.”

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Stefan Palios

Stefan is a journalist and entrepreneur passionate about the people behind tech. He writes about innovation, scaling, people management, and entrepreneur journeys, among other things, and is the founder of PulseBlueprint, an educational media company for entrepreneurs.