I’ve been distracted by a few other things lately, so my apologies for the lack of posts. I also started a few posts before realizing I didn’t really have much to say about the company. There are certain IPO’s in technical fields where if you aren’t a subject matter expert in whatever area the company operates in its hard to offer much in the way of useful commentary.
As it looks like my investment in Bigtincan is finally paying off, it seemed like a good time to review another SaaS (Software as A Service) IPO.
I’m having a little difficulty properly understanding the history of Simble. The Prospectus states that Simble was created as a merger of Incipient IT, an international technology venture group and Acresta, and Australian Software company. What doesn’t make sense though is that according to the Prospectus Simble was created in September 2015, yet the acquisition of Acresta and Incipient IT only occurred in September 2016. The prospectus doesn’t give much information on what exactly was happening with Simble during the 12 months between being created and acquiring Acresta and Incpient IT, but whatever they were doing they managed to rack up over 1 million in expenses during that time.
Just to be clear, these are statutory figures so are actual expenses for Simble, not of Acresta and Incipient IT before they were acquired. One possible explanation is that these expenses could have had something to do with purchasing the two companies, but that seems like an awful lot of money to spend on due diligence, and doesn’t explain the $86,000 marketing expenses. A more likely possibility is that Simble initially had some other business venture that they have since discontinued that the prospectus is neglecting to mention.
After doing a bit of digging around, it does seem that Simble has been involved in a few different areas that they don’t bother mentioning in the prospectus. Type Simble into the Android app store or Google and you find a bunch of results, some a little more hairbrained than others. There’s Simble Kids, a website for finding children’s activities in the United Arab Emirates (Google that one at your own risk as the website has an expired security certificate), a booking platform for small businesses (this one appears to be functional at least) and Simble Live, which was apparently a social commerce app again based in the Arab Emirates (I still have no idea what a social commerce app actually is). All these businesses seem to have largely been abandoned though, so I guess they decided it made a cleaner narrative to leave them out of the prospectus.
As an outsider, the merger between Acresta and Simble initially doesn’t make much sense. The little information I was able to find online about Incipeint IT shows that it was operating as a software venture capital firm and incubator before being acquired. Incipient IT was Co-founded by Phillip Shamieh, who may be familiar to Australian Small-Cap investors from his Australian stock research company Wise-Owl. (More Controversially, Shamieh was also involved in the now defunct sandlewood company Quintis. Wise-Owl was criticized in Glaucus Research’s now famous short report on Quintis for posting buy recommendations on Quintis Stock without disclosing Shamieh’s involvement in the company).
Acresta on the other hand, are an Australian software company with a focus on providing automation services to government and businesses.
What exactly the synergies are between an Australian Software Company and an Asian Business incubator is not that clear, but it seems that the business has been organized to maintain Incipient IT’s coding and software team in Vietnam, while keeping Australia as the businesses base of operations. Economically at least this makes sense, due to the lower costs of maintaining a development team in a country like Vietnam. I have seen a number of different businesses work with a similar model. The executive structure seems to largely reflect the merger between Incipient IT and Acresta. The CEO Fadi Geha was a co-founder of Acresta, and the next highest paid executive is the Commercial Director Phillip Shamieh from Incipient IT.
Simble has two main business arms. There’s Simble Mobility, a business process automation service largely carried over from Acresta and Simble Energy, a more recently developed electricity management service.
Simble historically has received the bulk of its income from Simble Mobility. A good example of Simble Mobility’s work is the App they developed for Barwon Health’s Cancer Centre for patient registration and booking.
Simble will typically work with an organization to develop an electronic solution for a business process and then develop the software. It is important to note that for a lot of these projects Simble does not actually own the platform that they work on. Instead, Simble has previously used a platform developed and owned by Blink Mobile, another small Australian software company. Simble has an agreement in place to use Blink Mobile’s platform, but is does not look like its exclusive which is a bit of a concern.
From an investment perspective, this is all pretty unexciting. A large proportion of Simble’s clients in this space seem to be Not-for Profit and government organizations. Having worked previously selling products to local government I know from experience that this can be a slow moving, uninspiring slog with products that are hardly at the cutting edge of technological development. It is also an industry with little prospects for rapid growth, as each organization is likely to want their own customized products that need to be developed individually.
Perhaps unsurprisingly then, the prospectus spends a lot of time promoting the growth potential of the Simble Energy Platform. This is a recently developed platform for businesses seeking to better manage their energy use. In addition to monitoring energy consumption, the platform is able to remotely turn on and off different circuits and appliances to take advantage of lower energy prices, or sell back surplus energy to the grid when prices spike. This is achieved via an Internet of Things hardware solution that needs to be installed on the relevant appliances and machines on-site. Simble gets revenue both from the initial installation of the hardware and the monthly subscription fee to use their software.
While the Internet of Things element is a recent development for the company, Simble and its predecessor Acresta have been providing energy management services for quite some time. You can old case study for carbon monitoring services that Acresta provided back in mid-2015 to Jurlique here.
On the face of it, the Simble Energy Platform seems like a solid business idea. There’s been an increased focus lately on the variability of energy demand on grids, and the rollout of smart metres presents significant savings for businesses able to match their energy demands to off-peak times. The Internet of Things element makes a lot of sense as well, as it transforms the platform from a purely monitoring service to one that can provide real savings.
On the negative side, it doesn’t look like Simble is the only company operating in this space. Simble seems to be initially focusing on the UK for its energy management business, and the Prospectus lists a few different companies already operating in this market. More worryingly, IBM also looks like they are providing a similar solution, with both an energy monitoring and Internet of Things element. One of the biggest fears for tech start-ups is that some giant company starts offering a similar service before they are able to compete, to the extent that “what happens when Google gets involved in your business” is a standard question Venture Capitalists ask when interviewing start-ups. While IBM doesn’t quite have the reputation of Google for moving into industries and quickly destroying the competition, they are still a pretty formidable competitor for a business barely able to clear $2 million of revenue a year.
Mid-January is typically a pretty quiet time in the IPO world. It’s an awkward time to list as one month or so later you would be able to include results for the 2018 calendar year, yet as it stands you are left with financial information that is over six months old. This is a particular problem for the Simble IPO, as a pessimistic interpretation of their balance sheet from June 2017 suggests they could be bankrupt by now.
In June 2017, the business had only $182,000 in cash, vs $1,650,000 in payables, $309,000 in employee benefit liabilities, and just under one million in unearned revenue. For a company with negative net cash flows for the six months until June 2017 of -$951,000 this is a pretty major concern. Deloitte seems to have been of the same opinion, as they submitted an emphasis of matter statement regarding the troubling net working capital position when they signed off on the HY16 and and HY17 financial report.
From a revenue perspective the situation isn’t much better. Below is the normalized profit and loss for Simble, which incorporates both Acresta and Incipient IT figures from before the merger.
The labelling is a bit confusing, but the first three are all Calendar years 2014-16, then HY16 is July-December 2016 and HY17 is January-June 2017. This is due to the business recently changing to a December end of year. It’s a hard table to look at, as it switches from 12 month periods to 6 months. By subtracting the HY16 numbers from the CY16s, I was able to work out the figures for the first half of 2016, giving me 3 6 month profit and loss periods.
|$000||jan - Jun 2016||Jul - Dec 2016||Jan - Jun 2017|
|Revenue||$ 1,090||$ 1,629||$ 1,160|
|Cost of Sales||-$ 340||-$ 810||-$ 359|
|Gross Profit||$ 751||$ 819||$ 801|
|Other Income||$ 300||$ 455||$ 348|
|Operating Expenses||$ -|
|General and Administration||-$ 2,243||-$ 1,823||-$ 1,637|
|Marketing||-$ 164||-$ 359||-$ 62|
|Total Overhead expenses||-$ 2,407||-$ 2,182||-$ 1,699|
|EBITDA||-$ 1,355||-$ 909||-$ 550|
|Depreceation and Amortisation||-$ 366||-$ 407||-$ 462|
|EBIT||-$ 1,721||-$ 1,316||-$ 1,012|
As you can see, there has been a negative trend in revenue from a high of $2.9 million in 2015 (or 1.45 Million every six months) to only $1.16 in the six months to June 2017. The prospectus mentions that the business is currently went through a restructuring period prior to listing, and it seems they are yet to see much revenue growth from their new energy platform. The jump to $2.2 million in operating expenses in the six-month period before the acquisition of Incipient IT and Acresta is also interesting. Around $1 million of these expenses are from Simble’s statutory accounts, so this does seem to confirm Simble was doing something else at that time other than simply getting ready to purchase Acresta and Incipient IT. It gets especially weird when you look further down at the cash flow statements and see that the business capitalized $4.711 million in development costs in the second half of 2016 as well.
In total, this means the business spent around $9 million in 12 months on operating expenses and software development, a phenomenal amount for a business this size. This seems to suggest the current management team is not exactly frugal, which isn’t great news considering they will have less than $7 million in net cash to play with post-listing.
Simble made a statutory loss before tax of $1.25 million for the six months to June 2017, so any traditional valuation method as a multiple of earnings isn’t going to be possible. Instead, as seems standard for SASS companies, the main metric we can use to evaluate the company is a multiple of revenue.
With a maximum market capitalisation of $17.98 million, Simble is valuing its IPO at 7.75 times revenue. If you subtract the money that is to be raised, the pre-IPO value is $10.48 million or 4.52 times revenue. For a SASS company this is pretty reasonable. Bigtincan, a SASS company I invested in that was at the low end for SASS valuations listed at 6.6 times revenue and is now up over 50% on its listing price. On the negative side, Registry Direct, another SASS company that I invested in listed at 31.7 times revenue and now is trading around 40% lower than its listing price. However, what both these companies had which Simble doesn’t is impressive revenue growth. At the end of the day, the only reason investing in a company currently losing money makes any sense is because you think it is going to grow rapidly. The fact that Simble is currently shrinking makes this a much harder sell. If they had been able to wait long enough to show actual revenue growth from the Energy Management platform the valuation would be much more compelling, but I guess given the dire state of their balance sheet waiting six months probably wasn’t an option.
While the idea at least of the Simble Energy Management platform seems compelling, at this stage there is too little actual evidence of real growth of this platform for me to justify an investment. In six months’ time if they can show some revenue growth it might be worth picking up some shares even if you need to pay substantially more than $0.20, but without seeing that growth the investment seems like too much of a gamble. I’ll waiting for something a little more compelling for my first investment of 2018.