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updated 6:45 AM BST, Sep 18, 2014
Technology and life sciences news from the Cambridge cluster

Ubisense IPO ends five and a half year wait

Paternoster Square, City of London, Stock ExchangeThis morning Ubisense became the first technology company from the Cambridge cluster to list on the London Stock Exchange in over five and a half years.

It got off to a great start, trading at £2.20 a share, almost up a quarter on the IPO price and giving the company a market cap of over £47m.

Ubisense is not low on ambition. It has big plans for its real time location systems technology, which company CEO, Richard Green, believes could be as big as GPS (he calls it indoor GPS) and has previously stated that he wants Ubisense to become Cambridge's next £1 billion company.

Hitting the global money markets through the LSE's Alternative Investment Market is a key part of that plan. "We are listing because we see the opportunity to grow the company with access to capital along with a public presence and profile," said Green.

"We feel that there is significant momentum gathering in the business right now, so a full tank of fuel now seems appropriate."

Green added that the economy did not hold Ubisense back from hitting the markets at an earlier stage, and while this may be the case, the fact is that Cambridge has not seen a single IPO since fabless chip designer, Cyan, in December 2005. So, discounting US social media madness, is the stock market an attractive place for tech once again?

As far as the share price goes, Cyan has struggled in the five plus years since launch, with its market cap now at almost a third of its listing price, the decline setting in in early 2007.

Bango, a specialist in mobile payment was the last Cambridge tech firm to list before Cyan and it also experienced a tough decline from the back end of 2006, but has picked up strongly over the last 18 months, surpassing its IPO level.

Both Bango and Cyan's fall in share price came before the recession and the global credit crisis that set it off and while Cyan has struggled to come back, Bango has been resurgent, particularly since the beginning of 2010.

Bango CEO, Ray Anderson, sees parallels between his company's IPO and Ubisense's today.

Firstly there's a neat piece of symmetry as Bango hit the London Stock Exchange almost six years to the day - the anniversary is tomorrow - then there's the price and beyond that, the state of the markets.

"We launched at a similar valuation with similar over-subscription (four times) and similar shareholder sales (£3m)," says Anderson.

"The markets feel about the same - our market cap is up a bit since our float, but the "feel" is similar."

Locally, this "feel" is not just down to Ubisense, there has been other traction on the market recently.

1Spatial, formerly Laser Scan, the Cavendish Labs spin-out that interprets location data for enterprise, undertook a £9.5m reverse takeover on to AIM in October 2010.

Down the road, Imagination Technologies has soared in valuation, its share price up over 230 per cent in the last two years as its chip sales increase with help from the iPad, while further afield, miniature mass spectrometry firm, Microsaic in Woking, listed in April this year.

Venture capitalists will also be eager to see a resurgence in IPO activity, the 2011 Global Venture Capital Survey has 80 per cent of 347 VCs worldwide agreeing that current IPO levels aren't high enough to sustain the VC industry.

While Ubisense only ever took angel funding, it's a positive note for the investment industry. "It's great to see that Cambridge continues to deliver technology companies of growing scale," said Alex Van Someren, a partner in the Amadeus & Angels Seed Fund. "Ubisense is a real success story, built by serial entrepreneurs and angel investors.

"IPOs are few and far between right now, so it's an even more remarkable tribute to Richard Green and his team to have an over-subscribed share offering in the current environment."

As for events on the other side of the pond where companies such as LinkedIn, Groupon and others are receiving huge evaluations, Anderson believes it shouldn't be too much of a worry as it isn't as malignant as 2001.

He said: "The large valuations in the US seem limited to a few "social media" companies. Others (GOOG, Apple, AMZN, Ebay) don't seem to be affected so its not like the dotcom bubble."