Qlik, one of the largest local software companies in the Philadelphia area, is preparing an initial public offering (IPO) – to go public for the second time.
The Business Analytics Specialist helps Honda, Novartis, Vanguard and other customers collect data from sales, suppliers and customers, load it onto employees’ phones and laptops and use it to take quick decisions. Qlik looked last year as its rival Tableau was acquired by Salesforce for $17 billion amid a bull market for software stocks.
Since then, the market has cooled, with tech stock indices falling 40% from last year’s highs.
Qlik remains a leader in the analytics and business intelligence space, rivaling Tableau and Microsoft’s PowerBI unit, said analysts at Gartner Group. But it lacked their “momentum”, analysts said in a report early last year. Qlik, founded in 1993 in Lund, Sweden, where the company’s software staff are still based, is run from offices in King of Prussia.
The company recently bolstered its product roster with a series of acquisitions. In January, Qlik sent the US Securities and Exchange Commission a “draft registration statement for a proposed initial public offering” of common stock, showing that it is ready to sell stock and resume life as a public company, pending approval of the SEC, and the right “market conditions”.
Qlik was also publicly traded from 2010 to 2016, when Thoma Bravo, a Chicago-based technology investment firm, bought out shareholders for $3 billion and took the company private, promising a profitable reorganization.
The purchase, at a price above then-prevailing trading levels but below previous highs, ended a rebellion by militant shareholders who had pushed for cost-cutting and increased profits.
At the time, Qlik’s annual sales exceeded $500 million. They have continued to rise and the company says it is profitable, but has not released financial data since its privatization.
What has the private equity owner been up to for the past five years? And why should shareholders expect Qlik to be willing to make money for them if it goes public again? The Inquirer asked Mike Capone, the CEO installed by the new owners. A few highlights, edited for clarity:
We focused on a narrow area, data analysis visualization. It had been a rage.
But a lot of things have changed. Leaders are always discussing how data analytics can make your business run better. But it is no longer just about presenting it on dashboards. It’s end-to-end: how do you unlock the data, import it at high speed, analyze it, and use it for immediate action? There’s a huge culture shift going on.
Look at Aramark. They [serve food] in sports stadiums, company cafeterias, schools, prisons. They use Qlik, for more than analytics: for natural language processing, with machine learning [with repeated use] work with users in the way that works best for them. Sometimes that means taking the data, presenting it in English people understand, and giving them actionable decisions they can make. So you can take action, increase sales, reduce waste.
It’s not just telling them “we have leftover stock”, but sending a push alert to the phones: “Salads are not selling today, should we lower the price?” These won’t keep until tomorrow. Or, “A customer is upset and posts bad things on social media. Call them. Make them happy. Or, “You’re working overtime. Sending people home. their entire system.
Or take Urban Outfitters. Their main demographic is young women returning to school. Like our daughter, who is 14 years old. Now think about the disruption caused by the pandemic. This can be represented as a data problem: “Are they coming back to the store? Will they go online? »
We’ve built a platform where we can work with their big datasets, running Qlik in each of their stores, to help manage inventory and help them deal with the pandemic.
We made a lot of acquisitions. It is sometimes difficult for companies to transform when listed on the stock exchange. We were a company where customers installed the software on their premises. We have moved to a subscriber model, for customers using cloud servers. We are still around 2,500 people in total, most of our management team is at King of Prussia, our second largest center in Lund, Sweden, where we were founded. We also have decent sized footprints in Boston and Ottawa, Canada, and Israel.
Not all investment funds are the same. We have received tons of support from [our owners at] Thomas Bravo. They are all about technology. And they’re really good at mergers and acquisitions. Wherever we go, they are with us.
For our repositioning, we needed to understand what we were doing well, and what needed [leave to] our partners. We wanted to focus on large companies. We see ourselves as an ecosystem of 1,700 partners. We focused directly on large corporate clients — Aramark, Airgas, Urban Outfitters. We left it at [sales and installation specialists] sell to smaller businesses. It was a strategic move that paid huge dividends.
The price paid by Salesforce, around $17 billion, made me feel good about being in the analytics business. They, and we, and Microsoft’s Power Business Intelligence (Power BI), are what the Gartner Group calls the “leaders” of our industry: Analytics and Business Intelligence. We are the only one of the three not part of a company that sells [unrelated] Things. Analysis is what I wake up every day and do. We can work with your data in Amazon, Google, Microsoft or in our own cloud. Customers love it.
A subset of our North American customer base had issues [when Amazon servers failed last year.] We made sure we were better isolated now. But we are global, we host in other places, in Asia as well.
We are super proud of our heritage here. This is our world headquarters. Once the pandemic cools down, we’ll be back in full force in King of Prussia.