Sales tax automation company Avalara raises $180M in IPO, prices shares at $24, above expected range

(GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy)

Avalara on Thursday priced its initial public offering at $24 per share, above the company’s expected range, reeling in $180 million as it gears up to go public Friday morning on the New York Stock Exchange under the symbol AVLR.

Avalara initially looked to raise $150 million when it first announced its IPO intentions last month. It upped the expected stock price twice, most recently at $21 to $23 this week.

But the final share price signals strong investor interest in the sales tax automation company, which sold 7.5 million shares of its common stock. Underwriters also have the option to purchase up to 1.1 million additional shares.

“We expect Avalara to have a strong debut when it opens for trading tomorrow,” said Kathleen Smith, a principal at institutional research provider and IPO expert Renaissance Capital.

Smith pointed to eight other SaaS businesses that have gone public this year and produced returns of 40.5 percent on the first day for investors who received shares on the offerings. Two of those came from Washington: Smartsheet and DocuSign, which both continue to perform well on the public markets.

“Those who think the IPO market is dead are mistaken,” Smith said.

Wall Street is warming to enterprise software for a variety of reasons. Venture capitalists and industry insiders say that the boom is a result of a tectonic shift in technology, tied to the rise of cloud computing and the ability for software companies to deliver their services more efficiently to businesses.

Avalara CEO Scott McFarlane. (GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy)

Founded in 2004, Avalara makes software to help companies better adhere to complex tax regulations. It posted revenue of $213 million last year, up from $167 million the year prior. Avalara is losing money, posting a net loss of $64.1 million last year, and has an accumulated deficit of $427 million.

Last year, the company processed more than 16 million tax determinations each day. It competes against companies such as CCH Inc., Sovos, Vertex and Onesource Indirect Tax, which is a unit of Thomson Reuters.

“We believe that the total addressable market for transaction tax compliance solutions is large and under-penetrated,” Avalara says in its IPO filing. “We estimate that the addressable market in the United States alone for the solutions we offer today is over $8 billion.”

CEO Scott McFarlane holds a 3.8 percent stake in the company, while Sageview Capital holds 27 percent and Warburg Pincus holds 24.5 percent. Avalara employs 1,495 full-time employees, with operations in Canada, United Kingdom, India and Brazil.

Avalara last month hired Danny Fields, an experienced engineering leader and cloud tech veteran, to be its new chief technology officer and executive vice president of engineering.

Avalara, ranked number one on the GeekWire 200, is the latest Washington company to go public. In April, three companies from the region completed initial public offerings: workflow management company Smartsheet (raised $150 million); e-signature powerhouse DocuSign (raised $465 million); and industrial laser maker nLight (raised $96 million).

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