Arm’s former COO says Nasdaq IPO ‘an opportunity to grow and replenish’
It just happened that on the momentous day Arm began trading on Nasdaq for the second time – September 14, 2023 – Arm co-founder and former COO Jamie Urquhart was at the Bradfield Centre for Cambridge Future Tech’s Founders Development Day.
I caught up with him just before he went on stage.
“They’ve done very well,” Jamie, now a Cambridge-based mentor and investor, said of the IPO. “Both Arm and SoftBank, that is.”
Any worries that the demands of endless growth and dividend handouts to shareholders are antithetical to the Arm way of doing business?
“There’s always challenges,” replies Jamie, who was at Arm from 1990 to 2002, with stints as both VP Sales and COO. “I was at Arm when the company went public the first time  and even then people said quarterly reporting is a load of nonsense, but it’s not difficult if you set it up right in the first place.
“If I compare now with then, in the early days we saw going public as giving us independence and the difference now is that 90 per cent of Arm is owned by Softbank, and that has implications for the way they do business. But Arm is responding very positively and, if you look at the quality of the investors, Arm is very well placed, so this is a place where Arm can flourish even more.”
Once onstage, Jamie was quizzed by Cambridge Future Tech CEO and co-founder Owen Thompson. How did he, an Arm co-founder, feel about the day’s proceedings, asked Owen?
“Founding a company is a bit like having kids and you grow with the company and, at some stage, you have to let them go,” Jamie replied. “So I feel a bit like a proud parent. Would I do all the things they’re doing today? Probably not, but what they’re doing is impressive anyway.
“What I do hope is that the IPO is an opportunity to grow and replenish.”
Jamie doesn’t feel that London has missed out.
“Our CFO for the first IPO found it a real pain as there’s a rules conflict between the US and London stock exchanges so you have to produce two sets of documentation, but you have to do things that are for the good of the business.
“SoftBank bought Arm in 2016 and it seems there have been problems with losing billions of pounds of investment [SoftBank owner Masayoshi Son has so far written down $1.8bn on his WeWork investment] so they have certain needs and what they’ve done has been to very cleverly engineer the IPO and still have control of the company.
“I hope it will be an expansive period for Arm although, somewhat inevitably – and I hope I’m wrong – it will become a bit more American. But you can’t maintain a culture, it has to evolve.
“There may be some executives over from the US, and more of a US style – I’m not saying that’s good or bad, but that it’s probably inevitable.”
- Jamie Urquhart will be in conversation with James Ashton, the author of ‘The Everything Blueprint’ (an in-depth assessment of the story of Arm to date) in a free-to-attend book launch session at The Bradfield Centre on October 11, registration details here.