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One of British Columbia’s most valuable private tech companies, Clio, has hired away a former top Silicon Valley investment banker from fellow Canadian “unicorn” Clearco to be its chief financial officer in advance of an expected initial public offering next year.

Curt Sigfstead, started this week at Clio, which sells practice management software to small and medium-sized law firms and is legally known as Themis Solutions Inc. He had spent 21 months in the same role with Clearco (Clear Finance Technology Corp.), after working more than 22 years with the U.S. finance giant JPMorgan, his last three as head of West Coast technology investment banking. There, Mr. Sigfstead led or co-led initial public offerings of software companies that included Twilio Inc., VMWare Inc. and BlackLine Inc.

Mr. Sigfstead, who hails from Edmonton, joins Clio after a pivotal year for the company, which has 750 employees and more than US$100-million in annual revenue. In 2021, Clio achieved “unicorn” status – a private company that reaches a valuation of US$1-billion – when it raised US$110-million in equity led by U.S. fund giant T. Rowe Price Associates Inc.

Clio also made two acquisitions last year to beef up its product offerings to its 200,000 customers in the legal sector, and rolled out its own payment processing service, joining other providers of small business software, including Shopify Inc., Lightspeed Commerce Inc. and Thinkific Labs Inc., that offer so-called “embedded” financial services to their users. Clio’s clients use its online platform to track lawyers’ time and appointments, manage cases, generate and share documents, bill and bring in new clients.

Clio recently recruited two other senior executives to the company: chief operating officer Ronnie Gurion, a former executive with Uber Technologies Inc.; and chief people officer Sarah Bettencourt, who previously held that title with Lightspeed and PointClickCare Technologies Inc.

Clio chief executive Jack Newton said in an interview he had been looking to hire a CFO for almost a year to replace Rob Froment, who is retiring, in order “to catalyze our next growth phase as we scale from a $100-million annualized recurring revenue company to $500-million and beyond.” Mr. Newton said Clio was looking for “someone help us see around corners,” and who had experience with mergers and acquisitions as well as capital markets. He also reiterated past comments that Clio is eyeing a potential public offering in 2023.

Mr. Sigfstead said “this felt like the right opportunity in terms of helping another leading Canadian technology company,” adding Mr. Newton had aggressively pursued him starting last September. Mr. Sigfstead also said he left Clearco on good terms, after completing two large fundraisings last year that established the company – which provides financing to e-commerce businesses – as a unicorn.

Clearco president Michele Romanow said in an interview that “this is an incredibly amicable departure,” and described Mr. Sigfstead joining another Canadian company as “fabulous news.” It’s the second high-level departure for Clearco in recent weeks, after co-founder Charlie Feng left to start a new company.

But Ms. Romanow noted Clearco also made several key hires last year as it roughly doubled in size to more than 500 people, including chief growth officer Ruma Bose, who previously headed Chobani Ventures; product vice-president Katrina Shackelford, a former Amazon executive; and chief technology officer Satwik Seshasai, who previously held senior technology roles with public companies.

“It’s harder for companies today to retain talent for a bunch of reasons,” including widespread remote working, which makes it harder to connect personally with fellow employees, Ms. Romanow said.

Mr. Newton said he’s also seen a “step change” increase in the amount of worker movement during the COVID-19 pandemic, in part owing to more “Canadian companies getting to scale than we’ve ever seen before and unprecedented demand for senior executive talent” across North America.

But he added the pandemic has also made it easier for Canadian companies to hire talent in hot markets such as San Francisco, and leave people there rather than enticing them to Canada. Mr. Sigfstead will stay in San Francisco, where Mr. Gurion is also based.

“This shift is benefiting Canadian companies like Clio,” Mr. Newton said. “We’re able to tap into a talent market that equips us for that next phase of growth.”

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