Road to the North - part 10: We made it
This is the tenth and final part of a blog series following the journey of Witted Megacorp Corporation as it made its way to the NASDAQ First North Market. The story is told from the perspective of CEO Harri Sieppi. Previous parts of the series can be found on Witted's blog.
Travel report so far
It's easy to smile with happiness and relief after crossing the finishing line. The bells rang on Friday the 13th and the project was completed. It's been a long way since February 2021, when I typed "How to do an IPO?" into Google.
The project was so massive that it had to be chopped up, using a method familiar from agile.
The first step was to see how the IPO requirements could be met and whether the company could be ready. When it looked like this could be done, a team was put together. The company had subsidiaries whose ownership should be fully consolidated into the parent company if they are included. We needed to find out who would go along for the ride - from the perspective of owners, management and staff. Most of the companies got on board after a lot of umms and hmms, and the IPO team consisted of parent Witted, Mavericks, New Things Company and Talented in Finland and Norway.
Bringing that team together under a single ownership required three corporate restructurings and spinning off Talented's Finnish growth consulting and recruitment business into a separate company. It was done over a few months during last summer. It still amazes me how it was done so quickly.
Once a unified team was in place, a new brand was also needed for the parent company, which would serve as the brand of the future listed company. In autumn 2021, the Witted Megacorp company and the Witted brand were announced.
Once Witted Megacorp was put together, an IPO readiness project was undertaken to identify the key risks to the company and ensure there were no skeletons in the closet. On the basis of this and many other things, just under a hundred pages of the prospectus were written. At this point, skipping that in a couple of sentences seems like a relief. At the time, it felt like writing a thesis with Nasdaq as your supervisor.
The journey was hard and full of twists and turns. The level of difficulty increased in the middle of the project as the world became more unstable at the beginning of this year. The world's stock markets took a hit. The stocks were in turbulence. The pandemic wasn't going anywhere. Then Russia started a war in Ukraine. After a record year for IPOs in Finland, the IPO market went quiet. Still, Witted pressed forward.
Anchor investor talks started just a day after the Russian invasion. The world was in turmoil and anxiety regarding people's pain was intense. We were all nervous. Still, there was faith in Witted's business and the company attracted even more anchor investors than we had planned.
Share subscription started on the second of May – and this is where we left off in the last episode.
The aim was to have a full subscription before the first possible interruption in the subscription period. Succeeding in this is a signal to investors and the public that there is enough interest. In the challenging market environment and global turbulence, there was no way of knowing how anxious investors would now be. The market also saw a "Flash Crash" on the first day of subscription.
At the end of each day of the week, Nordnet sent a report on the progress of subscriptions to the core team of the IPO project. Because that's insider information, I couldn't really discuss it with anyone. Even at the management team workshop that week, I had to keep up my poker face, and couldn't disclose the fact that I knew at that point that the hopes of over-subscription were going to come true.
Finally, we got the news: the public issue was subscribed 3.5 times and the staff issue 1.3 times. Excluding underwriting commitments from anchor investors, the institutional issue was 5.3 times oversubscribed – meaning all three parts of the issue were oversubscribed. It felt really good.
After the subscription, there was a week of waiting while the shares were transferred to their future owners and all the arrangements were made behind the scenes. There was nothing left to do for the IPO project, and fortunately there was nothing to do. Still, my hands were shaking and my resting heart rate was sky high - Garmin was on fire.
The bell rings, business is good
We received a trading start date of Friday 13 May. What could possibly go wrong? If we have survived all this, the pandemic, the stock market plunge and the war in Europe, the Flash Crash - Friday the 13th is nothing but a thing. It was "Our Day" and seemed appropriate for the times.
Nasdaq has a tradition of listing companies ringing the bell on the morning of their first day of trading. In the morning we went to Sanomatalo in the center of Helsinki, where there was a studio from which we streamed our bell-ringing ceremony. Advisors, partners and the IPO core team were present. We gathered the team on stage a couple of minutes before ten o'clock. The final countdown to the start of trading was counted and at 10.00 all the pent-up relief from the project was unloaded onto the Nasdaq clock.
When the bell rang and the trades started to flash on the Nasdaq screen, it was a surreal feeling. That's it. It's done. Witted Megacorp Plc is listed on the Nasdaq First North Growth Market. Road to the North was done. Next, Teemu and I hopped on the tram and headed for our Kallio office. Our world changed that day, the stress was gone and the relief was palpable. I don't think anyone noticed this on the tram in rush hour.
With this project finished, it's a strange feeling. It was an extremely boring two days and I even managed to call the chairman of the board and complain about how I'm getting bored, sitting in an office chair and going round in circles. At the beginning of the IPO journey, I had handed over operational responsibilities to the business leaders and they did a great job - the tasks didn't come back to my desk. The IPO project was a full-time job for over a year and it ended after the bell rang. I spent two days wondering about it, until I decided I'd better get back to work - I gotta keep myself busy. The 150/15/5 strategy is still ongoing and it is my job to make sure that our growth story continues as planned.
In the prospectus, we mentioned that the motivations for the IPO were to broaden the ownership base (now done!) and to enable growth through three means: acquisitions, expansion of our service offering, and internationalisation. Please contact me if you want to come along for the ride.
Ctrl-Z Undo? Ctrl-Y Redo?
If I could go back in time, would I do this again if I knew how much it would require of me and others? Absolutely. It was the right move to allow the company to grow and it had to be done. Although it sometimes got to me, I would wholeheartedly recommend it to others considering an IPO – if the business is solid.
Thank you to our staff, investors, IPO partners, customers and thank you to everyone who has made it possible over the years that we now have a listed public company, Witted Megacorp Plc.
Thank you. Now onwards, let's keep growing. Have a nice summer!