Why Redbubble founder Martin Hosking is taking his multimillion-dollar art marketplace public

Martin Hosking

On a mission to create the world’s largest marketplace for independent artists, Melbourne company Redbubble will attempt to list on the Australian Securities Exchange next month through an initial public offering that will value the company at $267 million.

Shares in Redbubble will be offered at a price of $1.33 as the company attempts to raise $30 million to fund its growth strategy and return cash to early-stage investors.

Redbubble expects to commence trading on the ASX on May 17.

The move comes as Redbubble celebrates a decade in business since launching back in 2006.

The IPO listing comes as the next major milestone for the company following a two-year process of preparing through improving its internal governance and corporate structure.

“For us going public is the next step of the journey,” Redbubble chief executive and founder Martin Hosking told SmartCompany.

“It’s not something that transforms the company but it does give us a higher profile and higher visibility.”

After raising $15.5 million in new capital in mid-2015 to accelerate international expansion plans, the online marketplace now has nearly 400,000 artists, 10 million images and looks set to turning over more than $140 million by the end of the year.

Hosking says the float will also mean early investors in the company will receive close to $10 million.

“The market capitalisation of the company listing is $258 million, [and] at that capitalisation [early investors] will be getting about 15 to 20 times their money,” he says.

With 14% of issued shares up for grabs to the public, Redbubble chairman Richard Caswey said in a statement the company’s organic growth over 10 years has positioned it to bring in strong returns for these new investors.

“It is one of a small group of Australian technology companies that are genuine global leaders in their space,” Caswey said.

“At the core of this success is the rise in consumer demand for distinctive products coupled with the ever-increasing possibilities of print-on-demand technology.”

A majority of the remaining capital raised through the float will then go to the balance sheet, says Hosking.

“It’s not to invest in for example marketing but to invest in the marketplace itself,” he says.

Hosking says Redbubble will be investing in its technology and product development teams to amplify its power to rollout new products and expand its services through languages other than English.

With more than 90% of Redbubble’s sales coming from offshore customers, Hosking says the company launched a German language site in Germany and are planning to do the same for French and Spanish.

Redbubble will also be improving its mobile experience for the more than 50% of its users that use mobile devices. The company is also pursuing other growth categories, such as women’s fashion related products.

Hosking’s ultimate aim is to make Redbubble the most attractive destination for artists around the world.

“We’re an organisation that has always had a clear sense of purpose around independent artists,” he says.

Hosking sees Redbubble as the third chapter of his career following his involvement in Aconex and LookSmart.

Looking back, Hosking says his proudest achievement has been building the Redbubble team, which he says has stayed true to a genuine and endearing purpose of building a community for independent artists.

As the company enters this next new chapter of its life, Hosking couldn’t feel more satisfied.

“There’s nothing more enjoyable than working with good people, who just as the organisation has grown are doing something we are all committed to,” he says.

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