Fast-growing sales tax automation company Avalara files for $150 million IPO

Avalara CEO Scott McFarlane. (GeekWire Photo / Nat Levy)

Avalara is looking to bring its beach motif and signature orange to the New York Stock Exchange. The Seattle company, which makes software to help companies better adhere to complex tax regulations, filed Friday to raise up to $150 million through an initial public offering. It plans to trade under the ticker AVLR.

Founded 14 years ago, Avalara is growing fast, with revenue of $213 million last year. That compares to revenue of $167 million in 2016. But Avalara is losing money, posting a net loss of $64.1 million last year. It has lost money since it was founded, showing an accumulated deficit of $427 million, and the company writes in the filing: “If our revenue does not increase to offset increases in our operating expenses, we may never achieve or maintain profitability.”

As it writes in the SEC filing, the company’s mission is quite bold: “Our vision is to be part of every transaction in the world.” Last year, the company processed more than 16 million tax determinations each day. It competes against companies such as CCH Inc., Sovos, Vertex and Onesource Indirect Tax, which is a unit of Thomson Reuters.

CEO Scott McFarlane holds a 3.8 percent stake in the company, while Sageview Capital holds 27 percent and Warburg Pincus holds 24.5 percent. Avalara employs 1,495 full-time employees, with operations in Canada, United Kingdom, India and Brazil.

It marks the latest in a wave of companies with deep roots in Washington state to test the public markets. Last month, three companies from the region completed initial public offerings: workflow management company Smartsheet (raised $150 million), e-signature powerhouse DocuSign (raised $465 million), and industrial laser maker nLight (raised $96 million).

The company is a past winner of the Next Tech Titan category at the GeekWire Awards, and last night at the awards show in Seattle won the Geekiest Office Space award for its new office at Hawk Tower in Seattle’s Pioneer Square neighborhood. Avalara is known for its embrace of the color orange, with the company’s executives frequently wearing garb in the company’s colors and its offices decked out in bright orange. In fact, Avalara has even trademarked the slogan “The Power of Orange,” writing in its SEC filing that color is used as a “rallying point of our culture” that is built around nine factors: Optimism, Passion, Adaptability, Humility, Fun, Ownership, Curiosity, Urgency, and Simplicity.