Adobe's push into web-based services has delivered a windfall for Australian entrepreneur Bardia Housman, who quietly sold his company Business Catalyst to the US software maker at the start of September.
(Credit: Business Catalyst)
In a further sign that Australian businesses are attracting the attention of larger overseas players, Housman's company Business Catalyst will form part of a new web-based services strategy for Adobe.
Business Catalyst provides a hosted turn-key system for small businesses to run a website, conduct email and online marketing campaigns, and analyse their performance. The software is designed to be sold through website designers, but the company also sold direct to customers through the GoodBarry brand.
Adobe also recently purchased another hosted service, the US-based company Omniture, which makes software for measuring online performance and marketing effectiveness. Adobe has also been redeveloping many of its software products, including Photoshop and LiveCycle, to run as hosted software.
According to Adobe's senior vice president for the creative solutions business unit, Johnny Loiacono: "We're trying to augment what we do on the front end with our tools, to now give back-end pieces that tie these together as a service."
Housman says that he had been in contact with the Australian Adobe team for some time, as Business Catalyst had also built a plug-in for Adobe's Dreamweaver designer tool. He moved to San Francisco in early 2008, and in June that year he met with Adobe management in San Jose. In September he was invited back for a further presentation.
"In November they rang me and said the only way they were going to talk to me further is if they bought the company," he says. "It happened very quickly."
The deal itself, however, involved a very lengthy process of due diligence.
The GoodBarry brand will disappear, with clients soon to be served directly by Business Catalyst. Housman is staying on with Adobe, having spent his working life building start-ups. This included selling his previous business Start.com.au to LookSmart in December 1999.
Housman jokes that his clients had actually thought the sale to Adobe was a joke after he put a notice up on the company website and Adobe didn't immediately confirm the news through its own site. Adobe is keeping quiet on its intentions for Business Catalyst until 2010.
It's a good outcome for the company's shareholders, who faced a long slow grind to build the business into a significant player in its niche. The company sold early in its development, but Housman says he was in no hurry to sell, with Business Catalyst growing well and turning over revenue in the low millions. The company had bootstrapped itself since formation earlier this decade, with no external investment. Sometimes its better to take the money when it's offered.
"We were serving a niche very well, and the only way we could scale that and reach tens of thousands of designers was through Adobe," Housman says.