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Lightspeed’s Dax Dasilva on the Evolution of His Company—And the Local Tech Space

If Dax Dasilva had to start his technology company all over again, he might have tapped investors a lot sooner. Still, the founder and CEO of Montreal-based Lightspeed isn’t interested in rewriting the history of his company, which provides cloud-based point-of-sale software for omnichannel commerce.

After all, since it was founded in 2005, Montreal-based Lightspeed has grown more than 40,000 customers in 100 countries and employs 500-plus people in seven offices worldwide. Dasilva spoke to Techvibes ahead of the TSX Ignite conference in Vancouver about the benefits of Canada’s maturing tech scene and company’s plans to potentially go public in future.

TV: What’s your take on Canada’s tech scene today?

DD: There is something really special about what’s going on in Canadian tech right now. Canadian tech companies aren’t just growing to a certain size in order to sell to American companies. We are becoming tech anchors.

Lightspeed’s first investors were from California and they are very bullish on Canadian tech companies. We have this unique value proposition as Canadian tech companies. We have an amazing talent pool … and we’re building quality companies that are creating really differentiated technologies in all of our cities. There is a big reason for Canada to continue to support this new information economy and our tech scene.

What’s changed since you started Lightspeed?

When we started in 2005 there wasn’t the network of incubators and accelerators and local VCs that we have in Canada today. You almost had to make the decision to move to Silicon Valley in order to become a “real” tech company.  That’s just not the case anymore.

There is so much more local support in terms of investment at all stages. For someone starting a tech company today, they can find world-class investors right in their own Canadian city. There is also that very Canadian trait of trying to uplift everybody — and it’s working. We all have pride seeing our companies going public and making waves internationally.

You’ve talked about being “IPO ready.” What do you see as the pros and cons of going public?

We have been really good at growing our company through acquisitions. I think going public allows us to further that strategy and continue to build and grow all around the world. That is one of the definite benefits.

Obviously, there is a lot more public accountability and reporting and other things that a company has to consider when going public. But in order to be an international, world-class leader, it’s an important step. In some ways, it’s just another way to fundraise. It’s not the end of the story, it’s just another step in a company’s lifecycle. But I think it’s an important milestone and a good ambition.

Our goal is IPO readiness. Whether we IPO or we find another way to continue to fund our growth, it’s a good goal for a company to get its systems and processes in place — and to professionalize the organization to a level where it could operate as a public company.

Anything you would’ve done differently at Lightspeed, in hindsight?

We waited seven years to take outside investment. We bootstrapped until then. We didn’t talk to the investment community. Maybe that’s because I came from an arts background and not a finance background. Maybe we should’ve done it earlier.

At the same time, I wouldn’t change anything about the Lightspeed story. One of the reasons why I think Lightspeed has been able to do three different acquisitions in three different countries, other than Canada, is because those seven years of bootstrapping gave us a strong sense of identity.

What advice do you have for early-stage companies today?

You need pragmatism. A lot of companies are built around an idea, not a business model.

What I’ve seen Canadian companies do really well is generate real businesses with real value for customers — and therefore can get the funding and the revenues from that business to grow into real tech companies.

This interview has been edited and condensed.

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