While global stock markets have recovered most if not all of the ground lost in the initial weeks following global lockdowns, big tech and a select group of vendors supplying them have proven remarkably resilient and outperformed the broader markets.
Case in point is Australia-based data annotation provider Appen, which hit an all-time high as recently as early June 2020. Appen, which supports AI-driven companies through data collection, labelling and related services, has benefited from the dominance of its tech-focused customer base throughout the pandemic.
Appen also uses AI in its own operations to part-automate the labelling and curation of data and has seen its share price climb more than 5,000% since its 2015 listing. The company has inspired other AI-centric IPO pitches in Australia, such as that of language service provider (LSP) Straker Translations when it went public in 2018. At one point, even language industry stalwart Lionbridge was reported to consider a Sydney listing.
Now, another Appen-reminiscent IPO is rumored to be on the horizon Down Under. Financial news site AFR is reporting that Australia-based provider of closed-caption, transcription and translation services, Ai-Media, is exploring a listing. Ai-Media’s platform, which the company says combines artificial intelligence with human translators for speech-to-text translation, is used to provide live captioning for broadcasters.
As its name implies, Ai-Media is focused on language services for the media industry, providing services such as broadcast and streaming captioning, subtitle translations, audio descriptions, note taking, transcription services and more.
This is not the first time Ai-Media has made the news of late. In May 2020, the company acquired US-based ASL interpreting and captioning provider Alternative Communications Services (ACS) using funds from its latest USD 6.7m investment round, which included the likes of UK-based private equity firm CVC Emerging Companies Fund and US-based tech investor Anzu Partners.
According to the AFR article, Ai-Media has engaged brokers Bell Potter Securities and Morgans to prepare for its investor roadshow and line up pitches with institutional fund managers.
While the exact amount that Ai-Media is looking to raise from the IPO has not been disclosed, AFR reported that the company could be looking at a valuation of “a few hundred million [Australian] dollars” based on revenues of AUD 32m (USD 22m) in the 10 months to January 2020 and historical revenue growth of between 20-30% annually.
If the company were to succeed with the IPO, it may entice other language industry players to give a Sydney-listing serious thought. In any case, it is remarkable that Australia (and Korea, see Flitto) seem to be the only places where language services and tech providers are exploring going public while in much bigger markets like Europe and the United States the most recent notable capital markets event was Lionbridge’s delisting way back in 2016.