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Timely sold, as overseas buyers snap up NZ tech

EverCommerce 1 bought Dunedin-based Timely in a deal that could be worth more than $100 million.

It’s the fourth trade sale of a New Zealand based technology company this year. That has raised eyebrows.

Timely runs a cloud-based application used for appointment bookings that also manages staff scheduling. It is popular with busy hairdressers and others in the beauty industry.

A story in the Otago Daily Times says Timely serves 50,000 professionals in 90 countries. It deals with 30 million appointments a year.

The deal is not yet complete. It has to wait on approval from the Overseas Investment Office. The OIO has a $100 million threshold. The two companies involved in the deal don’t want to talk about the price, but OIO involvement suggests it has to be more than $100 million.

If everything goes to plan, EverCommerce says Timely will join its suite of small business software-as-a-service applications. It would expand the company’s reach into New Zealand, Australia and the UK, where Timely has a decent presence.

Job fears calmed

One of the fears when a New Zealand tech company is sold overseas is that the jobs will go with it. Timely days there are no plans for that.

The company’s Mary Haddock-Staniland​ told Tom Pullar-Strecker at Stuff there will be no restructure and, if anything, staff numbers will grow. The story says Timely employs 125 people, mainly in Wellington, Dunedin and Auckland. Staff numbers climbed as the business found customers used its technology to help get through the Covid pandemic.

Between them, the three earlier sizeable New Zealand tech sales this year collected over $2 billion.

Christchurch-based Sequent, which models ground conditions, sold for a shade under $1.5 billion. Auckland-Based Vend went for close to $500 million. Ninja Kiwi, a games company, sold for $200 million.

Sometimes when a NZ tech company is sold overseas we see comments complaining the deals damage the economy or are bad in other ways. If there has been any today, I’ve missed it.

Great result for Timely founders

All this year’s deals are great news for the founders and early investors in these companies. They bring money into the country. In many cases this is recycled into fresh tech ventures.

Rod Drury used the money from selling his earlier tech companies to get the Xero ball rolling. Others might not go down that path.

There are times when an overseas sale sees the intellectual property and a leader or two travel with the brand while the local business is wound down. On balance, this has happened less in recent years.

The alternative to a trade sale like the EverCommerce-Timely deal is for a company to list either on the NZX, the ASX or an overseas exchange. It’s a well-trod path and can work well, but it requires time, effort and can cost. Taking the money from a big overseas buyer is a simpler, less stressful process.

The slew of sales that have taken place this year mean valuations are running hot. The momentum could see other founders getting offers that are too good to refuse.

  1. No, I’ve never heard of it either. ↩︎