When a unicorn Charlotte goes public

Last week, AvidXchange became the latest local company to go public.

The company debuted on the Nasdaq under the ticker AVDX.

Why is this important: The local fintech firm’s initial public offering marks the latest step in Charlotte’s evolution into a tech city. In recent years, the city has hosted significant expansions of tech jobs from companies such as Centene, Lowe’s. Check in, Better.com and Moody’s.

Charlotte has come a long way in the past decades, and the local economy is strengthened these days by more than just banking.

City Councilor Tariq Bokhari, who heads the FinTech nonprofit Carolina Fintech Hub, says the IPO of AvidXchange has significant ripple effects for the city’s entire tech sector.

“Right now, we’re going to profit immensely from the notoriety,” Bokhari says.

This means that while tech leaders overseas or across the country had never heard of Charlotte before, now they can associate her with big names like AvidXchange, he adds.

  • Groups like Carolina Fintech Hub have worked for years to develop the city’s tech brand and support startups. Last week, the group launched an acceleration program called Meta Lab, which will work with partners like US Bank to help startups in areas like business development and recruiting.

Go back: In 2000, entrepreneurs Michael Praeger and David Miller founded AvidXchange, which focuses on automating invoice payment and billing systems for midsize businesses.

  • “It was just two guys meeting at a cafe… in Charlotte with a crazy idea of ​​how we could change the way companies do business,” Praeger, CEO of the company, said Weekly. last in a ceremony at the company’s headquarters in Charlotte.
  • The company has grown over the years organically and through acquisitions, most notably Salt Lake City-based Piracle, which AvidXchange acquired in 2014.
  • AvidXchange moved to its new headquarters at Music Factory in 2017.

In that year, the company’s valuation reached $ 1 billion, making it a so-called unicorn.

In 2018, the company announced plans to open a head office in Salt Lake City, as I wrote for the Observer at the time. Also that year, the company announced plans to hire more than 1,200 new employees, doubling its local footprint, over five years, in exchange for more than $ 22 million in national and local incentives.

Today, AvidXchange has 1,500 employees in seven offices, including more than 1,000 in Charlotte, said spokesperson Chelcee Coffman.

The IPO will likely usher in further growth for AvidXchange.

In a securities filing last month, the company said it intended to use the proceeds of the IPO for workforce expansion, investment in sales and marketing, development of products, acquisitions and other uses.

  • “Today is the day every tech entrepreneur dreams of when they start a business,” Praeger said at the IPO celebration last week.

AvidXchange Celebrates IPO at Company HQ in Charlotte (Photo courtesy of Nasdaq)

AvidXchange declined to make any executives available for an interview with Axios. In an email, Coffman provided a statement calling the IPO an “incredible step” for the company.

“We remain committed to connecting buyers and suppliers through our two-way network to enable electronic payments and act as a catalyst for digital transformation,” the company said in the statement.

The big picture: AvidXchange’s IPO is also a big boon to the company’s early investors, which Praeger recognized last week as having been “very, very, very patient” over the years.

Nearly two decades ago, Charlotte executives from various industries each invested at least $ 50,000 in a fund “aimed at finding big returns by investing in young companies,” as the Charlotte Ledger recently reported. .

  • One participant estimated that the initial investment of $ 50,000 on the entire fund is now worth almost $ 500,000, according to the ledger.
  • Additionally, Praeger owns about 7.4% of the company’s shares, which are now worth around $ 350 million, the Observer reported.

The company’s IPO will further improve access to capital for young entrepreneurs, said Bokhari, who describes Charlotte as a long-time risk-averse place “that looks with a skeptical eye at things like blockchain.”

“This will go a long way. There is a lot of capital stranded in this city, ”he said.

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