Skip to main content

Thinkific Labs Inc.’s initial public offering met with brisk investor demand, allowing the company to price its deal at the top end of its marketing range despite recent weakness in Canada’s technology IPO market.

Based in Vancouver, nine-year-old Thinkific sells a platform for online course providers. It has seen a surge in demand over the past year partly aided by widespread sheltering at home during the pandemic, echoing a similar dynamic that has benefited virtual health care providers such as Montreal telemedicine company Dialogue Health Technologies Inc., which also had a well-received IPO last month.

Earlier this month Thinkific set out to raise $160-million at a price between $11 and $13 per subordinate voting share.

At the time, investor demand for tech-related IPOs was showing signs of drying up, with several Canadian deals cutting their size and their share price in order to get sold. The week before Thinkific launched, Saskatoon’s Vendasta Technologies Inc. was unable to raise $100-million in its own IPO.

Yet after marketing its deal to investors for a few days, Thinkific’s order book saw heavy demand, according to people familiar with the transaction. The Globe and Mail is not naming its sources because they are not authorized to speak publicly.

By Wednesday, when Thinkific set the final terms for its deal, investors had placed nearly $1-billion worth of orders, allowing the company to price its shares at $13 apiece, The Globe first reported that evening.

The company confirmed in a release Thursday morning its pricing of the deal at $13 a share. The company will sell 12.3 million subordinate voting shares in the offering.

Its underwriters, led by BMO Capital Markets and CIBC Capital Markets and including National Bank Financial, TD Securities, Canaccord Genuity, Cormark Securities and Stifel Nicolaus, have the right to buy an additional 1.85 million shares at the deal price in the 30 days after the deal’s closing.

Although some recent IPOs have struggled, bankers have stressed that quality companies can still get their deals done. Investors have largely shied away from small companies with minimal revenues or those that will take years to turn profitable.

Thinkific experienced significant revenue growth last year, fuelled partly by the pandemic. The company generated US$21-million in revenue in 2020, more than double the US$9.8-million it brought in a year earlier. The company recorded US$6-million in sales in 2018.

Last year Thinkific posted a loss of US$1.3-million after eking out small profits in each of the previous two years. The company had 24,600 paying customers at the end of 2020, up 126 per cent from 2019.

A recent sell-off in growth stocks – including several technology companies that have gone public in recent months – has dulled previously exuberant investor demand for Canadian IPOs. Deals for MDA Ltd., Boat Rocker Media Inc. and ABC Technologies Holdings all had to cut their sizes and prices to get sold.

However, select offerings for companies such as Telus International (Cda) Inc. and Dialogue Health Technologies Inc. saw strong demand, giving IPO candidates hope that the market had not gone completely cold. The success of Thinkific’s IPO gives the long pipeline of companies looking to go public more hope that their own deals will find buyers.

Investors who purchased shares in Thinkific’s IPO will get just a tiny sliver of voting control over the company. Chief executive Greg Smith, his brother and co-founder Matt Smith, the chief strategy officer, and venture capital backer Rhino Group of Vancouver own a total of 57 million multiple voting shares, which will account for 78 per cent of the outstanding shares after the IPO and carry more than 97 per cent of the voting power, according to the prospectus.

Your time is valuable. Have the Top Business Headlines newsletter conveniently delivered to your inbox in the morning or evening. Sign up today.

Follow related authors and topics

Authors and topics you follow will be added to your personal news feed in Following.

Interact with The Globe