Vancouver technology firm Hootsuite Media Inc. has hired a new chief financial officer, replacing the man who was expected to lead the company to an IPO.
The 10-year-old software company shuffled its top executive ranks in mid-January, quietly hiring Greg Twinney as CFO. The company put a press release, dated Jan. 16, about the news on its website but did not distribute it widely.
Mr. Twinney, previously a senior executive at Toronto-area tech firm Real Matters Inc., replaces Sujeet Kini. Mr. Kini was hired in October, 2015, from Open Text Corp., one of the moves Hootsuite made as it readied for a public offering.
Over the past decade, Hootsuite gained a reputation as an upstart technology darling, as it established itself as a leader in social-media management software. It was expected to follow Shopify Inc. into the public market, after the Ottawa e-commerce platform's strong initial public offering in 2015. But an IPO has not yet happened.
In an interview on Friday, Hootsuite chief executive Ryan Holmes outlined a variety of options for the company today. Future possibilities include an IPO, an acquisition by a private-equity group, or an initial coin offering, which he called a "very hot trend right now."
Initial coin offerings (ICOs) are an emerging form of fundraising, in some cases similar to crowdfunding, in which companies sell digital "coins" or "tokens" to finance a new venture.
"We are not in a rush," said Mr. Holmes, calling the company's backers, which include OMERS Ventures and several U.S. firms, "patient capital."
Mr. Holmes added: "The business is in a good position. We see so much opportunity. Right now, we're focused on building the business and we don't have needs for capital."
Hootsuite had a record year in 2017, Mr. Holmes said in the announcement of Mr. Twinney's hiring. And in an interview with The Globe and Mail, he said he always assesses his executive team and felt Mr. Twinney's operational experience would bolster Hootsuite for future growth.
While Mr. Kini's background was specifically in accounting, Mr. Twinney held a general executive vice-president position for four years at Real Matters, a real estate data firm based in Markham, Ont. He was part of the team that led the company's IPO last spring.
Before Real Matters, Mr. Twinney spent four years as chief operating officer and CFO at Kobo Inc., the successful e-book company. From mid-2005 through the end of 2009, Mr. Twinney was CFO at Opalis Software Inc., which was bought by Microsoft Corp.
"I'm excited by the opportunity to use my experience to help take Hootsuite to the next level," Mr. Twinney said on Friday.
The landscape of Canadian technology – amid a massive bull market in the United States led by tech giants such as Amazon.com Inc. and Apple Inc.– is mixed. There has been a dearth of tech IPOs, but the private market has seen a spike in venture capital financing.
In the first half of 2017, $1.6-billion in venture money was invested in about 260 deals. This was on pace with a total of $3.2-billion in venture investments in 2016, the best year since the dot-com boom.
In the private market, Hootsuite is one of several firms that had been expected to go public but have not, including Vancouver's Vision Critical Communications Inc. and Mississauga's PointClickCare Technologies Inc.
In June, 2015, Mr. Holmes told The Globe Shopify's hugely successful initial public offering "has uncovered a massive appetite for this type of offering not just globally but within Canada … [and] I want to get the company in a fantastic position to put out an offering." He said hiring a CFO, which the company did in October, 2015, when it named Mr. Kini, was a "precursor" to an IPO.
At the time, Mr. Holmes also said reaching break-even cash flow was another pre-IPO goalpost, one the company met in mid-2016.
Hootsuite was a pioneer in social media, climbing behind the meteoric rise of Facebook Inc. and others such as Twitter Inc. In early 2012, OMERS Ventures led a financing round of $20-million. It propelled the company. A $165-million round followed in mid-2013, one of the largest ever in Canada, led by New York-based Insight Venture Partners. Accel Partners, the Silicon Valley heavyweight, then led a $60-million round in fall 2014, bringing it to about $250-million in total.
Hootsuite's software is used by more than 800 firms in the Fortune 1000, according to the company. Mr. Holmes described social media as a nexus of everything from advertising to customer service, especially for people in their 20s and 30s, a key demographic for many firms.
Last year, the question of Hootsuite's valuation emerged. There had been the perception that the company was worth at least $1-billion, a so-called startup unicorn. The figure had never been confirmed and Bloomberg, citing unnamed sources, published a story saying the company was valued at about $750-million. Mr. Holmes at the time disputed the story and said Hootsuite was worth more than $1-billion. On Friday, Mr. Holmes parried questions on financial figures.
"We're being pretty tight-lipped," he said. He also cited the trend among private companies to stay out of the public markets for longer than in the past.