Pushpay hits $1b valuation as shares surge to new high

NZX-listed mobile payment company officially claims “unicorn” status.
Pushpay co-founder and chief executive Chris Heaslip

Pushpay shares jumped 9% in mid-afternoon trading to hit a new all-time high of $1 billion – the official valuation level for a startup to be defined as a “unicorn” in Silicon Valley speak (we’ll discount that it’s New Zealand currency on the NZX).

The surge means the companies cofounders, Chris Heaslip and Eliot Crowther, are now worth around $120 million each – or more than double their wealth when they debuted on the NBR Rich List in June.

The mobile payment company first listed in 2014 on the NZAX at $1 a share (or 25c, adjusted for a 4:1 split on February 8, 2016).

There was no immediately obvious catalyst for today’s jump; the US headquarters, New Zealand-registered company made no NZX filings or other announcements today.

But it does follow a flurry of positive news, including Pushpay's entry into the NZX50 and its half-year earnings, which saw its loss widen to $US12.5 million in the six months ended September 30, from $US11.3 million a year earlier. Revenue more than doubled to $US29.7 million from $US12.1 million (yes, there are some pretty glass-half-full or even magical valuation multiples in play at this point in the unicorn's life).

The company also reaffirmed its plan to list in the US, accelerating its timetable from 36 months to within 15 months (it will remain on the ASX and NZX too).

And it reiterated its guidance to reach cashflow breakeven on a monthly basis by December next year.

Venture capitalist and early Pushpay backer Aaron Bhatnagar – who may or may not have constantly been hitting refresh on his keyboard early this afternoon – says, “Naturally, I’m delighted to have been a part of the Pushpay journey all the way back to before its August 2014 IPO. I’m very much looking forward to seeing what 2018 has in store for this company, with more ferocious growth likely to continue, and even a US listing is possible.”

So far, PushPay's revenue has been heavily concentrated in the US, where it has gained a presence in around 4.5% of medium to large churches. That is, those of a sufficient size that they're likely to invest in its software.

Founder and chief executive Chris Heaslip says the faith sector is a potential $US2.2 billion market.

Pushpay wants to expand into non-profits and faith-based education in the medium term. Mr Heaslip says these market add up to a $US3.3 billion opportunity.

Some have asked why institutions couldn't just turn to a tool like Paypal. Mr Heaslip says his company's software is more nuanced, with presentation appropriate to a faith environment. He also argues that Pushpay is a lot wider in scope than the likes of PayPal, given it can also organise institution's offline payments, such as cheques, and help with customer relationship management and tax-time reconciliation. 

Related video: NBR View's Susan Wood sits down for an in-depth Newsmakers interview with Pushpay chief executive and chief executive Chris Heaslip (May, 2017).

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