The Seattle company Impinj specializes in radio-frequency identification technology, or RFID, which tracks items, making it easier for retailers and manufacturers to find products and work efficiently.
That set of dishware you found on sale at Macy’s comes in five different colors, and the store knows exactly where each of the remaining sets are. Using a small radio frequency tag, Macy’s can quickly locate each item and plan delivery.
Those small tags are made by Seattle company Impinj, which on Thursday went public on the Nasdaq stock market.
Impinj’s stock price rocketed 28 percent on its first day of trading Thursday, closing at $17.97 per share. The company raised about $67.2 million in its IPO, after pricing shares at $14 late Wednesday night.
Impinj’s public entrance is the second raindrop in the bucket for Washington state’s IPO market this year, after a long drought during 2015. The last company to go public before this year was Juno Therapeutics in December 2014. A small Seattle biotech, PhaseRx, beat Impinj to the markets this year with its May IPO that raised $18.5 million.
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Impinj CEO Chris Diorio said Thursday that the time was right for the company to go public because the industry has established standards and is growing.
“We have solidified our market-leadership position and the technology and standards are established,” he said in an email.
Impinj specializes in radio frequency identification technology, or RFID, which allows reader devices to communicate wirelessly with small printed tags that can be pasted onto pretty much anything.
Impinj works with retailers, including Macy’s and Zara, to keep an up-to-date directory of all their goods. The company’s technology gives retailers a much more accurate look at their real-time counts compared to the traditional method of taking inventory manually, Impinj said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Health care is also a big focus for Impinj, with medical centers using the technology to track equipment and supplies.
Impinj, which is headquartered in South Lake Union and keeps a showroom in Fremont, has sold 13 billion tags over its nearly 16-year life. The small tags sell for pennies, while tag readers sell for hundreds or thousands of dollars, depending on the specific technology.
The company became profitable in 2013, when it reported profit of $235,000 for the year. In 2015, Impinj reported a $900,000 profit on $78.5 million in revenue. In the first calendar quarter of the year, Impinj had a $2.3 million loss on $21.6 million in revenue.
Impinj envisions a future in which everything will have a tag, enabling people to identify and find items.
“We believe connecting everyday items and delivering real-time information about them is the essence of the Internet-of-Things, or IoT,” the company said in its prospectus filed with the SEC.
Impinj filed for an IPO once before, in 2011, but the company pulled its plans in 2012 and instead raised $21 million from private investors.
Pickup in IPOs
IPO activity has been picking up across the U.S. in recent months, after a dismal quarter at the beginning of the year. Thirty-seven U.S. companies raised $6.2 billion during the second quarter, according to Ernst & Young’s Global IPO Trends report. That’s an increase of 755 percent in capital raised over the first quarter of the year.
Companies have been hesitant to go public amid global financial uncertainty, and skepticism surrounding the actual valuations of so-called “unicorns,” or tech companies that have been valued at more than $1 billion.
A couple of disappointing tech IPOs last year prompted a pause in the market, but the trend seems to be picking up again.
“Amidst the (political and monetary) uncertainty, a robust IPO pipeline has been building for 2017,” Jackie Kelley, EY Americas IPO leader, said in a statement. “We expect 2017 to be a great year for US IPOs, filled with unicorns, disruptive technology companies and market innovators across all industries.”
Including, possibly, innovators in the Seattle area who have been waiting to see how things play out.
Analysts have speculated for years that a growing list of Seattle companies are close to IPOs, but many businesses chose to stay private and raise capital from private investors instead. After Impinj’s success on Thursday, that could change, said Greg Beams, Ernst & Young partner and VC leader in the Pacific Northwest.
“I think this certainly means that this is a good sign for the other tech companies in the region that are sitting on the sidelines, waiting to see if they can jump in and wondering if this is the right time to go public,” he said.
This could indicate that the IPO window is now open for companies in the area, Beams said.