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 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
by Brenon Daly
Looking at Intuit’s acquisition of PayCycle Inc, we might note that the alumni network can pay off – and pay off big. Intuit picked up the payroll services startup earlier this week for $170m in cash. We understand that PayCycle generated only about $30m over the previous four quarters, meaning Intuit paid an estimated 5.7x sales. (Granted, by looking solely at revenue, we’re arguably shortchanging PayCycle. The company, which has some 85,000 customers, sells its payroll services on a subscription basis, meaning revenue substantially lags actual contracts it has billed.) In a somewhat unusual mandate, Goldman Sachs advised Intuit, while Lane, Berry & Co., now owned by Raymond James & Associates, advised PayCycle.
There are a number of connections between Intuit and PayCycle. The Palo Alto, California-based startup was founded by a pair of former Intuit executives (Martin Gates and Rene Lacerte) who then turned the company over to Jim Heeger, Intuit’s former chief financial officer. Also, board member David Hornik of August Capital formerly drew a paycheck from Intuit, as did fellow investor Tom Blaisdell of DCM.