Skip to main content

Brendan King and Jacqueline Cook of the Saskatoon-based small-business software company Vendasta, which has confidentially filed for an IPO on the Toronto Stock Exchange, according to sources.Kayle Neis/The Globe and Mail

Three more Canadian digital companies are advancing toward initial public offerings on the Toronto Stock Exchange despite recent choppy markets, joining a rush to public listings by early stage technology companies in this country unseen since the dot-com boom.

Cybersecurity software maker Magnet Forensics Inc. of Waterloo, Ont.; Vancouver-based Thinkific Inc., a provider of software for businesses to sell online courses; and Saskatoon’s Vendasta Technologies Inc., which sells digital tools to companies that serve small businesses, have all confidentially filed documents with regulators to go public, said three sources with knowledge of the transactions.

The Globe and Mail is not identifying the sources because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the filings.

Magnet, founded by former Waterloo police officer Jad Saliba and former BlackBerry Ltd. executive Adam Belsher a decade ago, is built around software Mr. Saliba developed to help police with criminal investigations. The software, which was originally shared for free with police forces, automated the process for investigators to access incriminating data on devices and networks that were thought to be hidden, lost or deleted. It has aided with investigations into terrorism and child pornography.

The company has increasingly sold its products to corporations to help them guard against the theft of their digital assets. It has about 4,000 customers split between law enforcement agencies and companies. Its offering is being led by BMO Nesbitt Burns and Canaccord Genuity.

Vendasta secured the largest venture-capital investment ever by a Saskatchewan tech company in 2019 and has experienced steady growth since a short-term lull early in the pandemic. The company, which has about 500 employees and generates about $50-million in annualized revenue, offers tools to help small businesses speed up digitization efforts in such areas as e-commerce, remote collaboration and online learning. CIBC World Markets, National Bank Financial and TD Securities are leading its offering.

Thinkific has seen a jump in usage during the pandemic. The company, founded in 2012, announced six months ago it had raised $22-million in venture capital to fund a hiring spree after it experienced a 144-per-cent jump in revenue, to an annualized rate of $33-million. In December, Thinkific, one of the top holdings of Vancouver venture-capital firm Rhino Ventures, said it had seen 63 million new course enrolments in 2020. The offering is being led by Bank of Montreal and Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce.

A spokesman for Magnet declined to comment. Messages seeking comment from Vendasta and Thinkific were not returned.

The trio are among a list of six companies identified by The Globe two months ago that had hired investment bankers to explore IPOs. One of the others, Farmers Edge Inc. , an agriculture-technology provider controlled by Fairfax Financial Holdings Ltd., completed its IPO on Tuesday after raising $143.8-million in a deal led by National Bank and CIBC.

Another company identified earlier by The Globe as an IPO candidate, Montreal telemedicine startup Dialogue Health Technologies, announced Monday it had filed to go public.

Magnet is one of three companies from the Waterloo region eyeing a potential IPO, along with Auvik Networks Inc., a maker of software that manages and monitors internet-network traffic, and online education provider D2L Corp. An offering of any of them would mark a milestone for the region. Despite being home to some of Canada’s largest publicly traded technology companies, including Open Text Corp., BlackBerry and Descartes Systems Group Inc., and many venture-capital-backed startups, the region has not produced a new publicly traded tech company on the TSX since 2006, when Sandvine Inc. went public.

The rush of Canadian software IPOs is a marked departure from the previous decade, when new issues were rare. By early 2020, Canadian tech companies were increasingly avoiding or delaying going public because they had ready access to private capital at attractive valuations.

But the pandemic brought renewed interest, particularly in companies that do business over the internet in areas such as e-commerce and payments, health care, workplace communications and training. Skyrocketing stock market valuations meant companies could raise money at more attractive valuations publicly that private investors were offering. The two largest software IPOs in Canadian history, by Nuvei Corp. and Telus International (Cda) Inc., have happened since September. But while many issues were met with a warm investor response, tech stocks have been hit with volatility in recent weeks, raising questions about the market’s continued tolerance for riskier names.

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