Marin Software

Q&A with Marin Software's CEO

March 22, 2013: 12:02 PM ET

BEN_8593Marin Software went public today. Its CEO explains why.

FORTUNE -- Marin Software went public this morning, following an IPO that saw the digital ad management company raise more money than had been originally anticipated. As of this writing, the stock was up around 20% from its $14 per share IPO price.

Fortune spoke with CEO Chris Lien shortly after shares began trading on the New York Stock Exchange, to learn why Marin (MRIN) chose to go public. What follows is an edited transcript of our conversation:

Fortune: Why take your company public?

Lien: The primary reason we're going public is to bring attention to our company and our category, which is better management of online advertising to improve our customers' revenue outcomes. So we began getting our company ready to operate in a public environment and once we did so the markets looked favorable, Cyrpus and the Lululemon situations notwithstanding.

When the Cyprus news broke, how concerned were you about how it might affect the IPO process?

You always hear stories before you go out on the road about unexpected things. Peter in our marketing department was talking about black swans. So we had our list, but no one could have predicted that Cyrpus would be the thing that turned the world upside down. Fortunately it didn't have as broad as impact as some worried it might.

You priced higher than your offering range. Was the original target a reflection of Goldman Sachs' (GS) noted conservatism on these things?

I think the idea is you want investors to take a look at the company and set the price.

You said that you wanted to bring attention to the category. How will did the buy-side understand it going into the roadshow?

There's a range of understanding in the buy-side community. Many people we met with had been following our company for a year, others were brand new introductions. Raising money is still quite an old-fashioned business. Investors wanted to meet with me and my CFO and look us in the eye.

What were the major concerns raised by potential buyers?

The main one was that we're saying we'll lose money through 2015, and some investors just don't want to invest in a money-losing company. But masked in those losses are our high growth rate, our spending on sales and marketing and R&D that will help us make money in the future. The investors who took the time to understand our per unit economics realized how we could become a leader in an under-penetrated market, and they put in orders.

Marin originally filed confidentially under the JOBS Act. Any reflections on the value of that process, or lack thereof?

I think at the margins there are benefits to filing confidentially, although once the filing is made public all of your prior filings -- including the confidential ones -- are made public. So it helps that you can work out any issues with the SEC privately, but eventually investors are going to know. As it so happens, because of the advisors we were using, we didn't have any material issues.

Some startup entreprteneurs seem terrified of the responsibilities that accompany being a public company CEO. Do you share those concerns?

As with everything in life, there's no free lunch. The benefits of going public to us far outweigh any burdens or costs. The visibility of the company, the access to capital and the acquisition currency far outweigh things like regularly reporting to investors. We were already doing many "public" sorts of things anyway.

Did you ever consider looking for a buyer, rather than going public?

No we did not. From the beginning we've been building what we thought would be a public company.

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