After raising more than $16 million in venture capital over the past five years, burgeoning Gatineau proptech firm 1VALET is mulling a public listing as it sets its sights on the massive U.S. market.
CEO Jean-Pierre Poulin says the company is poised to open an office in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., in the next few weeks and aims to expand into Texas and California in short order in a bid to gain a foothold in what’s expected to be a multibillion-dollar market for smart home security products.
“I think it’s just a natural path for us,” says Poulin, who founded 1VALET in 2016 and is also the president of property developer Devcore.
“If we conquer those three states the way that we’ve conquered Canada, I think we’re going to be very well-positioned.”
Indeed, expanding into the U.S. would seem to be the logical next step for 1VALET, which makes a platform that provides condo and apartment dwellers with features such as keyless entry, remote thermostat control and automatic package delivery alerts.
In addition, the firm’s patented entry console replaces the rows of intercom buttons in condo entrances with a large, smartphone-like device that uses AI facial recognition technology to unlock doors and lets couriers scan parcels to enter lobbies.
Must-have for landlords
It’s the kind of smart tech that was already gaining traction before the pandemic. But the market has shifted into overdrive as COVID-19 made touchless systems a virtual must-have for landlords across North America.
The 1VALET system is now found in more than 100 condo and apartment buildings across Canada, a number that’s set to grow dramatically.
Ottawa-based InterRent REIT, which manages more than 11,000 rental suites, is the latest major landlord to jump on board after recently signing a deal to install the platform in its buildings.
Meanwhile, Rogers is offering the tech to its internet customers in Ontario, New Brunswick and Newfoundland, and Shaw will soon be doing the same, giving 1VALET access to major telco sales channels.
“Now we have a serious pipeline,” explains Poulin, who’s run dozens of businesses from flower shops to restaurants in his long and varied career but says he’s never been involved in anything with an upside as tantalizing as his latest venture.
“I’m a serial entrepreneur. Never in my life have I had an opportunity like 1VALET.”
"I’m a serial entrepreneur. Never in my life have I had an opportunity like 1Valet."
It’s an opportunity other enterprising business minds are also seizing, particularly south of the border.
Two of 1VALET’s U.S.-based competitors, SmartRent and Latch, have recently gone public via mergers with special-purpose acquisition companies created specifically to raise capital through a public listing.
SmartRent and Latch are now valued at more than US$2 billion each as they tackle a market that could potentially be worth in the tens of billions of dollars.
Poulin wants a piece of that pie. He thinks going public, potentially through a merger with a SPAC, could be the way to do it.
SPACs – also known as “blank-cheque companies” because their backers ultimately don’t know what firms they’ll be investing in – have become a popular route to the public markets for proptech firms in recent years because they tend to involve less regulatory red tape and come with less market volatility.
As such, it’s a tempting proposition for a company like 1VALET that has ambitious dreams and needs a massive influx of cash to achieve them.
Rapid revenue growth
The Gatineau firm is planning one more major funding round of between US$25 million and $50 million in the coming months to help finance its initial push into the American market. But Poulin says 1VALET’s next move after that will likely be a public listing in one form or another.
Now at 54 employees, the company has seen its revenues grow 235 per cent since last year. As impressive as that might seem, Poulin says he’s confident 1VALET’s ascent is just beginning.
“We’re past the startup stage now, which is great,” he says. “We have the momentum, we have a great product, we have a great team and we have a great opportunity to scale globally. We’ve got something really good going here.”