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B.C. software firm Copperleaf hits unicorn status upon TSX debut

Vancouver company among growing stable of firms to reach US$1b valuations
Copperleaf Technologies Inc. CEO Judi Hess | Photo: Rob Kruyt, BIV

B.C. has yet another unicorn on its hands following the debut of software firm Copperleaf Technologies Inc. (TSX:CPLF) on the TSX Thursday.

Shares reached $22.88 by the time markets closed at 1 p.m. PT after reaching as high as $24.44 each on its first day of trading. Shares were initially priced at $15 each.

With 57,639,516 shares made available to investors, Copperleaf’s valuation stands at about $1.3 billion (US$1 billion).

The company is best known for developing software that helps clients who manage critical infrastructure — such as electricity generation or natural gas distribution — to make investment decisions.

It began as a consultancy group in 2000 but CEO Judi Hess, who served as president of software firm Creo Inc. when it was sold to Eastman Kodak Co. (NYSE:KODK) for US$980 million, began shifting it to software products geared towards asset management after taking over in 2009.

The company has grown from 25 employees to 350 employees since Hess took over and the software is now being used to manage what Copperleaf estimates to be US$2.3 trillion of infrastructure.

Last month’s prospectus revealed revenue has been climbing steadily upwards since 2018, when it sat at $33.6 million. Revenue was $36.9 in 2019 million before jumping to $44.5 million last year.

Copperleaf is among a growing stable of unicorns — companies valued at US$1 billion or more — to emerge from the province over the last 10 months.

Firms specializing in everything from geofencing to non-fungible tokens; from COVID-19 treatments to legal-tech products, have been leading the explosion of unicorns since December 2020.

This surge of unicorns is unprecedented for the local economy.

David Raffa, president of Valeo Corporate Finance Ltd., said the local tech ecosystem is benefitting from private equity firms swimming in cash amid the pandemic, while credit markets are wide open and interest rates are at record lows.

“You build a dam dependent on a river and the water is piling up, piling up, piling up. Then the dam bursts. And so that’s what happened,” Raffa, whose Vancouver-based firm provides services for mergers and acquisitions and initial public offerings, told BIV in April.

Access to top-tier universities and the large talent pool paid in Canadian dollars at lower comparable salaries than their American counterparts have been particularly enticing, he added.

Brent Holliday, CEO of Vancouver-based Garibaldi Capital Advisors Ltd., said the local tech sector had been held back to a certain degree in years past owing to the lack of available talent in the city.

“Getting big financings in companies like Hootsuite [Inc.], BuildDirect[.com Technologies Inc.], etc., 10 years ago helped fuel a broader talent pool we have,” he told BIV in May.

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