Commerce specialist Lightspeed POS raises $166M as it preps for an IPO in 2019

E-commerce and digitally-based financial transactions have consistently been one of the biggest and most lucrative areas of the tech world, and today a commerce startup out of Canada is laying down its claim to be among the significant players in the field.

Lightspeed POS, which provides point of sale, accounting, inventory management, purchasing analytics, and other related services to brick-and-mortar retailers, restaurants and online businesses competing with the likes of Square and Shopify, has raised $166 million in funding, a Series D that it will use to expand its business deeper into payments and new geographies. Lightspeed claims this is the largest venture round ever raised by a Canadian tech startup.

Dax Dasilva, Lightspeed’s CEO and founder, told TechCrunch that he expects this to be the last round of funding before the company goes public, which he expects to happen in about 18-20 months.

“We are hoping to be IPO-ready by mid-2019,” he said, noting that one of the big areas Lightspeed will put this latest investment towards is building its own payment processing infrastructure, as today it works with Vantiv and Cayan to provide these services. “We want to monetise that area, and that will be a huge story for Lightspeed going forward.”

This latest round of funding is led by Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec, one of Canada’s largest investors, managing investments for some of the country’s largest pension and insurance funds. It put in $136 million of this investment, with iNovia Capital and Silicon Valley Bank providing the remainder. It brings the total raised to $292 million.

La Caisse is a repeat investor in the company. “Two years ago, when we first invested in Lightspeed, the company was already considered a Canadian leader in its field. Today, its solutions are used in more than 100 countries and Lightspeed is the world’s largest company in its sector. This success is due to the impressive innovations that it implemented and the strategic vision of its experienced management team,” said Christian Dubé, EVP, Québec at la Caisse in a statement. “This investment is part of our commitment to provide long-term support to Québec’s new-economy companies as they grow internationally.”

No valuation is being disclosed, but Dasilva said it was “higher than previously” and that the company remains short of the so-called “unicorn” mark of $1 billion. “That is our ambition for when we are IPO-ready,” he said, and so, too, is reaching breakeven, which Lightspeed also has not done yet while it remains in growth and reinvesting mode, he added. (We are still digging to see if we can find a valuation and will update this as and if we learn more.)

Asked about the size and timing of this round, Dasilva said that it came after several companies approached Lightspeed to acquire it. “We had a lot of inbound interest in companies buying us, strategic companies in related industries. That’s been a decision that we had to evaluate with the board and stake holders,” and the end result was to stay on its own and continue to build, hence the investment now. 

To date, Lightspeed has had a strong track record that makes this a sound move. When we wrote about the company’s last round of funding two years ago (a $61 million investment), the company had $10 billion of transaction volume going through its platform from 100 countries. Today, that figure is up to $15 billion annually (with the same number of countries in its footprint).

Notably, Lightspeed’s per-customer transaction volume appears to have gone down a bit as it has grown: in 2015 it had 25,000 businesses as customers; today that number has doubled to 50,000. 

That is where the company’s growth investment will be kicking in. Today Lightspeed makes revenues from a monthly plan (typical pricing is $99/month for the retailer solution and $69 for the restaurant solution), which includes basic hardware (the “register” based on an iPad, for example), reporting, support, cloud backup and access for 5 employees. It also sells supplementary hardware and enhanced levels of service for additional fees.

Customers today include Todd Snyder, Want Les Essentiels, DASH, Draper James, Rocket Fizz, Malin+Goetz, Mike’s Bikes in California, and the Montréal Canadiens, Eataly, La Marina NYC, Nobu Malibu, Lutze Biergarten, Zoku Amsterdam Hotel, Hummus Bros, Crêpeaffaire, and Detroit Foundation Hotel.

In the future, Dasilva said the next step is to do more with payments and other financial services, both to pick up a larger percentage from the processing of those transactions, and also to create even deeper analytics and services around them.

“We are the operating system for these businesses, and that is why we have such low churn,” he said. One way that financial services might look, he said, could be in the area of providing financing to businesses around a particular need to scale quickly in a specific area. “With better analytics, we can, for example, identify when a product is turning very quickly, and that the company should quickly invest more capital into that area. If a company could get an advance warning on volume, that would be somewhere that we could add value.”

It’s an interesting inversion on a lot of other POS players, when you think about it. The likes of Square and iZettle first laid out their place in the market around controlling the basic transactions a business needs to make. Once they secured that, to create more customer loyalty and better margins for themselves, they have moved into a range of other services. Lightspeed has taken the inverse route.

Its clarity on that strategy came to it in an unlikely way that sheds some light on how M&A negotiations can work, and what targets might take away from them.

“It’s interesting when you get inbound acquisition interest,” Dasilva said. “You see what other people see as your potential in reference to what they do. We learned a great deal about our strategic value. At the end of the day, we decided that we still have so much to do that it doesn’t make sense to be taken over.”