Hootsuite founder Ryan Holmes relinquishes chairman post as part of pre-IPO board shakeup

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Hootsuite founder and CEO Ryan Holmes on September 25, 2019 in Toronto.Christopher Katsarov /

Hootsuite Inc. Ryan Holmes, founder and former CEO of Vancouver, has stepped down as chairman as part of a board overhaul ahead of the Vancouver company’s expected initial public offering.

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Company, a leader in the business of providing software for management Social media said on Tuesday it was adding four new directors, while two, including Mr Holmes’ nominee, BBTV Holdings Inc. CEO Shahrazd Rafati and Hootsuite investor Accel nominee Sarah Clemens will leave.

New Director Julie Herendin, a senior digital marketing executive who previously worked at PagerDuty Inc., Uber Inc. and Dropbox Inc., is taking over as president. Other new directors include Christiane Pandarvis, co-president and chief business officer of lingerie company Savage x Fenty, Tookos Inc. Dave Singh, Chief Financial Officer, and Carl Sparks, Managing Partner of venture capital firm Interlock Partners.

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Mr. Holmes will remain a director along with CEO Tom Keizer and Hootsuite investor Insight Partners managing director Jeff Lieberman.

“These new board appointments are an important step for Hootsuite as we transition from an investor board to an independent board,” Mr. Keizer said in a release, referring to the fact that the board was previously dominated by Directors attached to or nominated by its major investors.

Company spokeswoman Melanie Gaborielt said by e-mail: “We believe that having an independent chair is a matter of good governance.” The company declined to say who, if any, of the new directors were venture capital firm Accel, an early investor, or Mr. Holmes’ nominees.

The changes come as Hootsuite, one of the first companies to spark Canada’s technology renaissance after the 2008-09 credit crisis, prepares for a potential $200 million public offering on the Toronto Stock Exchange in the coming months. Hootsuite has appointed investment banks TD Securities and JP Morgan as advisors, and has met with potential public market investors in recent weeks to assess their interest, as reported last month. Hootsuite has declined to comment on those efforts.

The move to an IPO comes 16 months after Tom Keizer, formerly of Zendesk Inc. Mr. Holmes succeeded Mr. Holmes as CEO and led efforts to revive the 1,000-person company.

Hootsuite was born in 2008 as a spinout of Invoke Media, Mr. Holmes’ internet service and marketing consultancy. Hootsuite provided a solution to a new problem. It developed tools for organizations to navigate changes in public communication and manage online activity across emerging social-media channels, including Facebook and Twitter.

Hootsuite became a tech industry darling, receiving funding from big-name US and Canadian venture capitalists. It grew rapidly and created a cult of personality around Mr. Holmes as a digital economy thought leader.

But as Hootsuite reached US$200 million in annual revenue and hit operating profitability, it stagnated. The company missed sales targets and its product was not developed to meet the demands of the customers. industry dynamics As Twitter pulled payments from Hootsuite and its peers.

After potential bidders valued Hootsuite at less than expected, the company halted the sale process in late 2018.

There were months of tense board discussions over whether Mr. Holmes was the right person to lead the company, even after potential buyers expressed concerns about performance metrics and high customer and employee churn.

The company laid off 10 percent of its workforce in April 2019, and made changes to its leadership team, with Mr. Holmes relinquishing his CEO position that year. Meanwhile, rivals Sprinkler Inc. and Sprout Social Inc. have since gone public, valuing the game in the billions of dollars.

Under Mr. Keyser, however, Hootsuite has gotten its mojo back. They have scaled back their efforts to entice large corporations to focus on smaller-sized enterprises, where it is strongest. He stepped up efforts to convert new or test customers into long-paying customers, recruited senior executives, and made two acquisitions.

On Tuesday, Hootsuite said it would open an office in Atlanta in February and hire more than 60 people there next year as part of efforts to expand rapidly in the United States.

Hootsuite’s revenue growth rose to 20 percent in the second quarter, up from last year’s single digits and just ahead of time, but that growth has come at the expense of operating profits, which have slipped into negative territory this year.

If Hootsuite goes public with numbers like these, it will follow a string of Canadian software companies that have debuted on TSX this year with a combination of decent but not high growth by software industry standards. , which has little or no operating profit, including Covio. Solutions Inc., D2L Corp., Q4 Inc. and E Automotive Inc. The reaction from investors has been mixed, with many new stocks trading below their issue prices during the volatile performance of tech stocks during the fall.

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