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With revenue topping $100 mln, Vision Critical weighs options, including IPO

Revenue of Vision Critical will shoot past the $100 million mark this year, CEO Scott Miller told peHUB Canada at last week’s Canadian Innovation Exchange (CIX) 2014 in Toronto.

He added that the Vancouver-based customer intelligence platform is preparing for an “imminent” growth opportunity that includes the possibility to “take on more capital,” perhaps through an IPO.

Miller was interviewed by peHUB Canada shortly after he accepted the CIX 2014’s Innovator of the Year Award, which recognizes a Canadian entrepreneur who has a demonstrated technology or compelling idea in the fields of digital media and ITC.

In his remarks, and a subsequent Q&A with Georgian PartnersSimon Chong, Miller said Vision Critical’s growth owes to a key decision made only a few years ago. That decision saw the company forgo its broad market research focus and instead zero in on emerging social technologies that were turning traditional modes of surveying and predictive analysis upside down.

“Vision Critical saw customers being empowered by technology and a shift in attitudes that was taking control in organizations around the world,” Miller said. The company then pivoted its strategy. “One has to choose what you are going to do well,” he added.

Scott MillerWhat Vision Critical apparently does well is provide enterprises with actionable data and insight through online customer communities, a sort of digital focus group. Using a cloud-based interface, clients gain real-time feedback about products, services and emerging trends that can be incorporated into market strategies and revisited as needed.

Miller told peHUB Canada that Vision Critical’s pivot has received reinforcement from businesses eager to translate the intelligence of brand-conscious customers into sales performance. Tapping into the Fortune 500, it has developed a 650-plus client base and seen a more than 20-fold increase in revenue since 2006.

Vision Critical’s growth has essentially been organic, Miller said. Establishing 16 offices in North America, Europe, Asia, Australia and Africa, the company embarked on a global strategy that emphasized familiar cultures and economies. Later on, it moved into “disruptive spaces” and “unique geographies” where Vision Critical relies on local partners to build out and support its model.

Miller said Vision Critical is today “the market leader in humanizing data.” He recognizes that competition is heating up. This has led to further development of the company’s customer intelligence platform and adaptation of tools for new purposes, such as market education and forecasting.

In the coming months, Miller sees an opportunity for Vision Critical to “scale dramatically.” So far, its expansion has been funded mostly by venture funding, including a $16 million follow-on financing in July led by Georgian Partners and joined by Northleaf Venture Catalyst Fund and Kensington Global Private Equity Fund.

That and previous rounds involving OMERS Ventures, Difference Capital Financial and Wellington Financial, among others have contributed to $45 million in total VC funding.

Next time, the company may consider alternative sources. Vision Critical, along with Desire2Learn and Hootsuite, has been a rumored IPO candidate.

Miller, who joined Vision Critical in 2012 and became CEO that same year, wouldn’t comment on the IPO rumors. Rather, he told peHUB Canada that “all options are on the table.” Also, as Ryan Holmes has said of Hootsuite, Vision Critical is at least taking steps to prepare for a public market debut.

“We are investing in our business to be in the public eye,” Miller said. He added that it would make sense even if Vision Critical, which has an estimated market value of close to $500 million, was not actively pursuing an IPO.

Given its emphasis of organic growth, Vision Critical has not been particularly acquisition-minded. One exception was its 2013 purchase of DiscoverText, a U.S.-based text analytics solutions provider. However, M&A activity may become more strategically important in the future, as Miller views “some acquisitions on the horizon that are complementary to our platform.”

Vision Critical was founded in 2000 by President and Chief Product Officer Andrew Reid and his father, renowned pollster Angus Reid. While the elder Reid stepped down from his role as executive chairman in June, he remains an advisor. The Reid family also continues to be the company’s largest shareholders.

Photo of global customer feedback courtesy of Shutterstock

Photo of Scott Miller courtesy of Vision Critical