Laser manufacturer nLight jumps nearly 70 percent in IPO – Silicon Forest’s first in 14 years
The drought is over.
Clark County laser manufacturer nLight Corp. began trading Thursday morning on the Nasdaq exchange and shares jumped a remarkable 68 percent, $10.95 over the $16 offering price. It’s the first initial public offering for a Silicon Forest tech company in almost 14 years.
The debut was a resounding conclusion to the long dry spell for regional tech companies and shows nLight — a domestic manufacturer little known outside the Portland area — can appeal to Wall Street investors more commonly enamored of software and cloud computing companies.
NLight is a throwback to an earlier era. It makes its semiconductor lasers in a local factory, at its headquarters just north of Vancouver, drawing on the region’s heritage in the chip industry.
The nLight lasers are supplanting traditional cutting, welding and drilling tools in factories around the world. Manufacturers are using the laser technology built in Clark County to make industrial products, consumer electronics and communications gear.
NLight closed at $26.95, implying a market value of approximately $900 million. The IPO raised about $96 million ($89 million after discounts and commissions for underwriters.)
Already among the Portland area’s largest tech companies, nLight’s revenues grew 36 percent last year to $138.5 million. Its first-quarter revenue was up another 37 percent from a year earlier, suggesting the growth may continue.
It wasn’t always that way. The company started in 2000, aiming to make a light source to amplify communications signals in fiber-optic networks. But the telecom industry crashed at the same time the dot-com bubble burst, and so nLight began the long process of retooling its products and adapting them for manufacturing.
“That was more than a pivot. That was a fundamental reset,” said Scott Keeney, nLight’s co-founder and chief executive. But he said nLight’s fundamental technology remained the same, and the time it spent developing products for manufacturers is paying off now.
“It takes years to develop really deep technology,” Keeney said.
NLight employs 1,000 around the world – including 400 split between its Clark County headquarters and an office in Hillsboro.
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