Contact: Ben Kolada
As accounting software giant Intuit buys beyond its traditional roots, it is leaving the door open for competition from a new breed of accounting startups. A handful of accounting companies have popped up over the past few years in the US and abroad to target consumers and SMBs, some with freemium models. These Davids are walking in Goliath’s giant footsteps, and are announcing a number of their own expansion plays.
Over roughly the past year, accounting startups Wave Accounting (based in Toronto), Xero (based in New Zealand) and FreeAgent (based in the UK) have each announced at least one acquisition. For the most part, these companies’ purchases have been done to expand beyond their core accounting focus. Wave, for example, recently announced the pickup of small stock analysis startup Vuru.
Xero has been particularly acquisitive, announcing four acquisitions since its founding in 2006. The company, publicly traded on the New Zealand Stock Exchange, has been doing deals to both complement its products and expand geographically. Its purchase of PayCycle in July 2011 helped the company enter the nearby Australian market. Through organic and inorganic growth, Xero has grown its revenue to about $16m in its 2012 fiscal year, which ended in March.
Beyond M&A, some companies have developed new products as an offshoot to their businesses. Ruby on Rails developer LessEverything, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, is now offering LessAccounting. And Toronto-based invoice vendor 2ndSite now offers FreshBooks.
Meanwhile, Outright Inc was recently acquired by Go Daddy Group. Though, if you ask LessEverything, it could have very well been its LessAccounting product. The company purported on its blog that Go Daddy approached it two years ago with interest in buying its LessAccounting product.
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Contact: Ben Kolada, Thejeswi Venkatesh
Intuit on Friday announced its largest M&A move in six years, acquiring SMB-focused marketing automation startup Demandforce for $423.5m. The deal, and Demandforce’s valuation, was primarily driven by the target’s market traction. The company, founded just in 2003, has amassed a customer roster of more than 35,000 SMBs. The transaction also demonstrates the accounting and tax giant’s desire to further penetrate this market with additional products and services – this is its first major play in marketing automation.
The Demandforce acquisition complements Intuit’s QuickBooks software and expands its offerings for SMBs. (We’d note that Intuit already offers a marketing management and productivity application called QuickBase, though that product is for enterprises.) Demandforce provides marketing automation SaaS and helps businesses maintain an online profile and better communicate with their customers. The company has grown considerably over its short lifetime. According to Inc.com’s annual survey of the fastest-growing companies, Demandforce generated $15.3m in revenue in 2010, up from $6.4m in 2009. Continuing that growth rate would put its 2011 revenue at roughly $25-30m.
Intuit is handing over $423.5m in cash for Demandforce, making this deal Intuit’s largest since it forked over $1.35bn for transaction processor Digital Insight in 2006. Demandforce’s growth certainly factored into its valuation. Assuming that Demandforce maintained historical growth rates, Intuit’s offer would value the target at a whopping 15-20 times trailing sales. If our initial estimates are correct, that valuation is double and even triple some precedent valuations. For example, in 2010, IBM bought Unica for 4.4x sales. Unica had flatlined during its final years as a public company, with revenue remaining in the $100m ballpark for the four years before its sale. The valuation is also double Teradata’s Aprimo acquisition, also announced in 2010. Teradata paid $525m for Aprimo, or 6.3x sales.
-Contact Thomas Rasmussen, Brenon Daly
We might be inclined to read Intuit’s recent purchase of Mint Software as a case of ‘If you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em.’ The acquisition by the powerhouse of personal finance software undoubtedly gives the three-year-old startup a premium valuation. Intuit will hand over $170m in cash for Mint, which we understand was running at less than $10m in revenue. (Although we should add that Mint had only just begun looking for ways to make money from its growing 1.5-million user base.)
More than revenue, we suspect this deal was driven by Intuit’s desire to get into a new market, online money management and budgeting, as well as the fear of the prospects of a much smaller but rapidly growing competitor. (Intuit and Mint have been talking for most of this year, according to one source.) In that way, Intuit’s latest acquisition has some distinct echoes of its previous buy, that of online payroll service PayCycle. For starters, the purchase price of both PayCycle and Mint totaled $170m. And even more unusually, bulge bracket biggie Goldman Sachs advised Intuit on both of these summertime deals. (Remember the days when major banks would hardly answer the phone for any transaction valued at less than a half-billion dollars? How times change.) On the other side of the table in this week’s deal, Credit Suisse’s Colin Lang advised Mint.
Intuit M&A, 2007 – present
|September 14, 2009
|June 2, 2009
|April 17, 2009
|December 3, 2008
|December 19, 2007
||Electronic Clearing House
|November 26, 2007
Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase *451 Group estimate