Once a rare sight in Vancouver, yet another unicorn has emerged this year from the West Coast tech scene following a US$110-million capital raise for Clio (Themis Solutions Inc.).
The legaltech firm’s valuation now sits at US$1.6 billion with the close of the Series E round led by T. Rowe Price Associates Inc. (Nasdaq:TROW), with participation from Toronto’s OMERS Growth Equity.
“We've seen a huge acceleration in the adoption of technology in law firms that have traditionally been viewed, maybe, as one of the slower adopters of technology,” Clio CEO Jack Newton told BIV.
“What COVID-19 has really done is it's driven 10 years of acceleration and digital transformation in the legal industry over the course of 10 months.”
Newton’s Burnaby-based company, known for developing software that helps lawyers reduce administrative tasks, is setting its sights on expanding its roster significantly over the next year.
Clio’s headcount sits at 575 workers and the company will be looking to add another 250 people by the end of the year.
Newton said he expects the company will be up to more than 1,000 employees within 12 months as it hires additional remote workers while boosting offices in B.C., Alberta, Ontario and the Republic of Ireland.
“We believe in the importance of gathering as humans, so we're going to maintain our Vancouver office space,” he said, referring to how the pandemic has impacted remote working over the past year.
“We're going to use it more as a hub for gathering, and teamwork, and project planning and synchronization.”
With the fresh capital in hand, Clio is also eyeing strategic acquisitions.
“We're looking at anyone that will help us accelerate our product roadmap,” Newton said.
Following what the CEO described as a “pregnant pause” in activity when the pandemic first paralyzed much of the global economy 13 months ago, he said lawyers soon began turning their attention to figuring out how to run their firms virtually.
“Starting around mid-April , we saw an unbelievable surge in demand — what I described as a mass evacuation to the cloud for the legal industry,” Newton said, adding law firms had to rush to rethink processes previously rooted in face-to-face interactions and reliance on technology based in physical offices.
“Next to staffing costs, real estate lease costs are the single … largest piece of overhead for a law firm. So in well one fell swoop, COVID-19 and technology have eliminated one of the most significant structural costs embedded in the existing costs of legal services.”
He said this rapid change in the industry over the last year has the potential to reduce the costs of legal services for consumers and open the door to more inclusive access to justice systems.
“We realize that technology is not just a tool that can improve the experience for the privileged few that can access legal services today,” Newton said.
“We realize technology can really help improve the accessibility of legal services, to improve the discoverability of legal services and, most importantly, reduce the cost of legal services and make them more affordable.”
Clio’s last big capital raise came in 2019, when it landed US$250 million in a Series D funding round led by American equity firms TCV and JMI Equity.
With its US$1.6-billion valuation, the company among the select number of B.C. tech companies considered to be unicorns: tech companies valued at US$1 billion or more.
The last unicorn to emerge from Vancouver prior to this year was Avigilon Corp.
American tech giant Motorola Solutions Inc. (NYSE:MSI) acquired the West Coast tech company known for developing advanced hardware and software for video surveillance and analytics for US$1 billion back in 2018.
But since the start of 2021, cybersecurity firm GeoComply Solutions Inc. has managed to lock in investments that pegged its valuation at US$1 billion, while New York-based Diligent Corp. acquired software company Galvanize (ACL Services Ltd.) in a deal worth US$1 billion.