Lessons From My IPO
Where: Melbourne, Australia
My role: Founder, CEO, largest shareholder and, as it turns out, Chief Trouble Maker
I established Isis Communications (yes, I know… everybody thought it was a good name at the time) in 1998 with a few thousand dollars of credit card debt. Isis established and acquired businesses that focused on providing multimedia production and broadcast services to the television and film industry in Australia.
We provided fee for service broadcasting services to foreign television networks such as ESPN, NBC and CBS for events such as the Australian Open Tennis, the Melbourne Formula One Grand Prix and the Sydney Olympic Games among many others.
The IPO was completed in September of 1999. Getting the Company to this point was a serious roller coaster ride. At the time of the IPO the company’s market capitalization was $140 million and $50 million was raised. I was the founder, CEO, largest shareholder – and feeling pretty good about myself. Then, by the end of the first of day trading, the share price had dropped 30% below the IPO price. It turns out I was still riding the roller coaster.
We hired 110 new employees to add to the approximately 120 employees that we had before the IPO. I setup various partnerships in the US with HP and Sun Microsystems among others. We needed to fund the US expansion so I completed a secondary offering (managed by Jeffries & Co – New York office) to raise an additional $42 million from approximately 22 US institutional investors. This resulted in Fidelity and T Row Price, among others, becoming shareholders. At this point in time the share price had recovered from its decline after the IPO and continued to climb to more than 100% higher than the IPO price. Then the market crashed.
I had to fire the 110 new employees. It was one of the worst days in my life. I didn’t really care about what was happening to me – I think roller coasters are just life. But, I did care about what would happen to them.
In 2002 the Company merged with its largest competitor and the revenue of the combined company increased from $20 million to $55 million. As a result of merging with a Company that was larger than us I obviously had to give up control and decided to step away. The company, now named Staging & Connections, grew revenue to more than $170 million while it remained publicly traded then eventually privatized.
There are not many people that will have the opportunity to create a company and do an IPO. The roller coaster that went into getting to that point continued beyond the IPO and still continues to this day many years later. If you decide to genuinely push yourself the roller coaster ride never ends. It’s not about reaching for highs and avoiding lows. It’s about enjoying the journey.