BigTime Software has acquired Projector PSA to strengthen its product portfolio, aiming to become a leader in the Professional Services Automation space. Neither firm disclosed the terms of the deal. However, Lock 8 Partners, which invested in Projector in 2019, will now take a minority stake in BigTime Software alongside Vista Equity, which invested $100 million in January 2022.
Todd Gibby, Managing Partner of Lock 8 Partners, noted: “We are extremely proud of the growth and scale that Projector has achieved since our initial investment in 2019. As we look forward, we couldn’t be more excited to invest alongside Vista Equity in a combination that will ensure the trajectory of the services economy is profitable, efficient, and geared for growth.”
The combined company will have over 2,700 customers, with 100,000 daily users and around 160 employees with offices in Chicago, Phoenix and now Boston with several employees in other countries. Projector PSA is one of the recognised leaders in the space, and when Enterprise Times spoke to Dennis Whelan, CEO, he noted that the company had the highest satisfaction rating of a PSA in the space.
Several firms have looked at acquiring Projector over the years, but it seems that the work that Whelan has done over the last few years has increased its value to buyers. Enterprise Times asked Brian Saunders why they went for Projector rather than any other?
“For starters, we’re in the same space. We both service very similar client sizes. Their product roadmap is also very similar. I get why a traditional M&A roll-up strategy benefits the investors. For it to benefit the customers, we’ve got to be more than just two logos working next to each other.
“We spent a fair amount of time in the market with Vista looking at potential acquisitions, probably since January (since the investment was announced). We loved that Projector has really deep expertise in customising that solution for their client base. They’ve got consultants that have been in the industry for 15 and 20 years who’ve been working with exactly our type of customer.
“When you dig deep into their feature sets, a lot of what they already have multi-entity reporting, multi-currency, the beginnings of a really brilliant BI strategy that doesn’t just kind of slap visualisations on top of the product but actually creates a BI strategy. Those are all things that are in our product roadmap.
“So we thought, even if we don’t lift and shift code, that gives us great headlights to that capability set. We can use that expertise to help our customers, and then there is always a place within the market for a solution like Projector that fits almost like a bespoke suit on top of a PS organisation. We’ve really liked their history, client base and internal expertise. It really lets us kind of service the whole mid-market.”
When he expressed the current strategy, Saunders indicated the future direction of investments, either in acquisitions, partnerships, or R&D. He said: “As we continue to grow, our goal is to be the one-stop-shop for small and mid-market, PS firms. What does that mean? Document Management, HRIS and Payroll are a little different for a PS firm.
“If we can continue to add to the platform in a way that allows our clients to have a fully integrated best-in-class solution. All of that benefits both Projector customers and big-time customers. It’s a powerful combination.”
Both firms leverage the Microsoft Stack, so BigTime will have a greater chance of copying the Power BI Strategy that Projector has developed. Also, Projector PSA may find adding the BigTime Wallet feature straightforward.
There is differentiation, Projector PSA has a Dynamics 365 integration, and BigTime supports many users on QuickBooks and Sage Intacct. Saunders has no intention, however, of investing in a GL solution and will continue to integrate with those solutions.
But with separate identities
The products also have different approaches, with Saunders believing that Projector has a more consultative approach than BigTime. This makes sense, although when Enterprise Times last spoke to Dennis Whelan, CEO of Projector, he was looking at automating the onboarding process to scale the business.
The likelihood is that Projector will remain consultative but leverage some of the expertise within BigTime to automate the onboarding process. This will then enable it to deliver a faster time to value for customers.
Saunders noted: “It’s a brilliant little team. The DNA of that team is spreading out throughout the organisation, and it will be really exciting. It’s kind of a germ of internal consulting. We’re not just selling software anymore; in this day and age, we’re selling a solution.
“We’re trying to help professional services firms grow and run more efficiently. That involves more than just buying a PSA. I love that Projector partners with their customers to actually get to that view as opposed to just selling them software.”
The combined organisation will retain the individual brands for the products. This is something that Saunders stressed will remain for the time being.
He commented: “The overarching corporate brand needs some work to ensure that we incorporate it. I’m not entirely sure why I would need to rebrand for rebranding’s sake. If it benefits customers, we will rebrand. If it doesn’t benefit the customers, I’m not going to spend money on it. I’d rather go out and make sure we get Document management or HRIS correct.”
Both companies are mainly US-focused, but Projector does have an international presence. What is the focus for international growth?
“That’ll be big. Projector does multinational, US-based with offices elsewhere, and they’ve got a couple of European customers that are pretty big. But setting up a footprint in the EU and English-speaking International is a logical next step for us. I don’t know what that entails yet. We’re out there actively looking at international for sure.“
However, that next step will not happen quickly, as Saunders continued. “It’s a pretty big market domestically, so I don’t want to get distracted.
“That’s probably the chief concern among our customer base: Hey, I don’t want you to get distracted from what you’re building. We want to make sure that we honour that. Our goal is to build the destination of choice here. Does that involve supporting folks who have international operations? Absolutely. Does it involve shifting our focus to London and Berlin, and Paris? Probably not.
On the leadership
What is positive is that at least two of the senior leaders at Projector will continue in new roles at the enlarged company. Denis Whelan will become President of the Project business unit.
One of the founders, Steve Chong, COO at Projector, is also staying. Both are leading on the project investigating how to take advantage of the synergies between the companies. Chong will continue in his current roles within Projector, but Saunders is hoping to tap him for a more strategic role with Saunders noting: “So He’s a great strategic mind. We want to leverage that when we think about how the platform expands beyond just the base level PSA functionality.”
Denis Whelan, CEO of Projector, commented: “We have been laser focused on delivering industry-leading software and services that have enabled incredible growth for our customers and Projector. What excites us most about this combination is the ability to leverage BigTime’s innovation at scale to bring Projector’s core strengths to an even wider audience.”
Enterprise Times: What does this mean
The acquisition is a single step on a journey that will likely see BigTime become a bigger player in the PSA market, especially in the US. The organisation already tracks more than $10 billion of billable time each year. It now has solutions that will work across its target market.
Saunders noted: Our combined strengths enable us to better serve the needs of the middle market and, together, our capabilities will allow our customers to drive operational excellence and maximize profitability.”
With Vista as its VC, there will likely be more acquisitions; this is a good first step. Rachel Arnold, Co-Head of Vista’s Endeavor Fund and Senior Managing Director, commented: “We invested in BigTime to further advance their vision to develop best-in-class solutions and capitalize on the multibillion-dollar underserved market opportunity for professional services automation.
“The combination with Projector strengthens its position as a clear leader with the right combination of technology, talent and brand trust to capture that opportunity.”
The acquisition is more than a market tuck-in. It is more about increasing market coverage. Nor is it a pure tech tuck-in. Saunders commented: “We’re trying to do more than just roll-up.”
His answers justified the statement. What will be interesting is where the acquisition search will go next. It seems like it could be document management or even HRIS. With the latter, there may need to be a sense of caution, with FinancialForce buying and then selling an HRIS vendor as it found it didn’t quite fit.
Another option is for BigTime to look at one of the PSA vendors on the Salesforce platform, there are several to choose from, and it would mean it could better target those PSAs working in the Salesforce ecosystem or already using Salesforce CRM.