As everyone talks up Afterpay, Whispir roars

Yolanda Redrup
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“Our focus is on how quickly we can get the business to $200 million in revenue in the immediate short term … but the thing that makes me reticent about [providing a timeline for it] is COVID-19.

“We have to make sure we don’t buy into too much of our own hubris … and be measured and make sure we’re not getting ahead of our skis.”

Having started the year with a share price of $1.48, Whispir is now trading around $4.20, having fetched as much as $5.24 per share.

The business has created a communications platform which lets companies and governments manage, automate and optimise their communication processes, be it with employees, customers or other stakeholders. It is used for everything from crisis communications to marketing.

It offers drag-and-drop templates to create communications materials, centred on a web-based experience, but with an an app-like feel, without the expense or hassle of actually creating an app and requiring customers or employees to download it.

As well as the web platform, it offers text and voice messaging, email and social media channels inside one platform.

It has more than 630 customers globally, but 78 per cent of its revenue is still generated within Australia and New Zealand.

Expansion abroad

The international opportunity ahead of the firm is Mr Wells’ main focus, as he targets Asia and the US as his major growth markets.

Mr Wells said he was stepping up the company’s investment in its newly formed “customer success” team in the 2021 financial year, as well as accelerating its product development.

This in turn will lead to the business posting a “modest” earnings loss in the year to June 30, 2021, but Mr Wells said the company would be profitable again in 2022.

“Some of our institutional investors want to see us be more aggressive to grow the market faster … but many others want to see us grow in a sustainable, profitable way,” he said.

“There is a natural tension between going for growth and taking a more balanced approach.

“We made the decision to invest more, and personally I’d love us to be able to invest even more, but we have to respect the market and live within the extent of our skis.”

Whispir’s customers include BHP, Rio Tinto, Telstra, AIA Insurance, George Weston Foods, New Zealand Police and Credit Union Australia.

In the company’s recent full-year results, Whispir beat its prospectus forecasts, recording $42.2 million in annual recurring revenue compared to its prediction of $42 million.

Its lifetime customer value (as a total) also grew to $379 million, which came in 60 per cent ahead of its prospectus guidance.

“The business is really well suited to the current environment. When things go bad, communications are elevated. If you have an operational breakdown you need to be able to respond and communicate nimbly,” Mr Wells said.

Mr Wells still owns about 15 per cent of Whispir, valuing his stake at more than $65 million.

While he has based himself in the Victorian ski resort during the pandemic, he intends to return to the city after lockdown ends.

Prior to the pandemic he had been looking for a larger office space to accommodate the company’s rapidly growing workforce, but now he’s set on remodelling their current space.

He is revamping the company’s Melbourne office to be appropriate for a hybrid work environment, removing the linear desks in favour of collaborative working pods and employing a permanent barista and setting up a bar.

“We want people to come back to collaborate because we’re missing those connections which are a bit more staccato and you can make conceptual leaps. Zoom is very polite,” he said.

“Real innovation requires people to be able to thrash out ideas.”



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