ACL sets sights on IPO after recent acquisition deal

Global footprint of Vancouver software company grows while R&D capacity doubles

ACL Services Ltd. is one of Vancouver’s largest tech companies. CEO Laurie Schultz plans to take it public in the next four to five years | Submitted

ACL Services Ltd. closed out 2017 with a first for the bootstrapped tech company.

More than 30 years after its launch in Vancouver, the firm best known for its auditing software took on an outside investment.

A scant 14 months after the $50 million injection from Norwest Venture Partners, the investment has manifested itself most noticeably in an acquisition that’s doubling the company’s research and development capacity.

The deal to buy U.S.-based Rsam, announced in February, is adding 150 workers to ACL’s global roster, which includes staff at offices in Singapore, London, Paris and now Bangalore and New Jersey.

For ACL CEO Laurie Schultz, it’s a calculated move meant to further clear a path for one of Vancouver’s largest privately held tech companies to go public.

“This will significantly drive our valuation,” said Schultz, who’s been leading ACL since 2011.

Her goal is to take the company public in the next four to five years. However, she said, there is internal debate at ACL about whether the company can speed up the timetable further.

Schultz said more acquisitions are being considered in the meantime after ACL met with about two dozen organizations before choosing Rsam.

The aggressive effort to take the company public stands in contrast to much of the initial public offering (IPO) market lately.

New issues on the exchanges were mostly dominated by junior mining companies raising $2.2 billion in 2018, according to a January report from PwC Canada.

That was down from $5.1 billion a year earlier.

But, Schultz said, ACL might be able to inspire more in the local tech industry to pursue an IPO.

“We’ve been here a long time in B.C.,” she said. “We’ve been understated. And I just feel like we have a lot of momentum and we have a lot of potential to become a role model of taking a business public here – something that doesn’t happen enough in our tech scene. This gives us a lot of fuel to do that.”

Rsam specializes in governance, risk and compliance (GRC) software meant to help public companies manage operations that must comply with government regulations.

Schultz said the acquisition puts her company in a better position to offer broader GRC management tools, and the two companies will be working together to marry their technologies on an integrated platform.

“Our heritage is in kind of the audit space, and so it’s a great strength,” Schultz said. “But we aren’t associated with risk, so we think this is going to significantly position us as a broad risk solution.”

She added that Rsam’s co-founders, Vivek Shivananda and Kevin Day, will be sticking around to lead Rsam as a separate business unit while reporting directly to her.

“If you consider about 55% of our revenues are in the U.S., it would make sense that we expand our sales capability, our marketing capability there. And we supplement our Vancouver development with their development team.”

torton@biv.com

@reporton