Whenever one of Ottawa’s rising tech stars accepts a buyout or merger deal from south of the border, the cynics might say, “another one bites the dust,” regardless of how favourable it appears to be for the local company.
Admittedly, no one has a crystal ball. But a month and a half after Fusebill announced its deal with Florida’s Stax (previously known as Fattmerchant), co-founder and CEO Tyler Eyamie sums up the future this way:
“We plan to increase our Canada-based headcount by 25 per cent this year … Fusebill is still a standalone organization and that is the intention moving forward.”
The response to date from customers suggests this message has rung loud and clear.
“The overall response from the Fusebill client base has been tremendous,” Eyamie said. “The partnership provides stability and strong financial backing which increases our client and partner trust that Fusebill will continue to support them with innovative technology to empower their businesses.”
Stax purchased a majority stake in Fusebill under terms that were not disclosed. The backer of the deal is Tennessee investment firm Greater Sum Ventures. It purchased a majority stake in Stax late last year and brokered the introduction with Fusebill.
The challenge that faces Eyamie and his counterpart down south – Stax co-founder and CEO Suneera Madhani – is how best to align the strengths of the two companies with the restrictions in place thanks to the pandemic.
Fusebill operates on a SaaS model to deliver an award-winning, enterprise-class subscription billing and management platform that is used by hundreds of small and medium-sized businesses worldwide. Stax, meanwhile, enables merchants to process payments across multiple platforms, including on mobile devices.
Managing a long-distance relationship
The goal is to work as “#oneteam” toward becoming the hands-down leader in fintech.
“Some people say that Stax and Fusebill are working to be a billion-dollar company, but I like to say that we’re shooting for ’unicorn status,’ because why place limits?” Madhani said. “If we’re not on this journey together, we won’t get to the moon. And we’ve launched a rocket ship to the moon.”
Both leaders acknowledge that the pandemic has made it harder for that rocket to achieve escape velocity.
“I believe our top challenge is the fact that Fusebill is based in Canada and still deep in the pandemic, while the Stax team is in Orlando where the pandemic is at a much lighter stage,” Eyamie said. “If we were able to travel and meet face-to-face, our integration would be even smoother.”
“We do like to sit in the same room to brainstorm and feed off each other’s ideas and energy and sometimes that can be stifled when every meeting is virtual,” Madhani added. “We can’t wait to see our Fusebill colleagues in person.”
Pandemic or no pandemic, there is a right way and a wrong way to go about integrating two complementary companies. First, recognize it’s a process that takes time.
“Spend as much time (as you can) with each other during the ‘get to know you phase’ and ensure you have a strong and aligned vision for what the future will look like,” Eyamie said. “At the end of the day, it’s all about relationships – ensuring the people you are partnering with are ones that you can see yourself working with for 10+ years is extremely important.”
“At Stax, we have big dreams and run at high velocity all the time. It’s fun to choose partners who also have a passion for the business and align with our vision to help clients think smarter.”
That’s internal – what impact has the current situation had on the customer base?
“The pandemic has shown our clients that the value of automating their invoicing and payments saves them time and money,” Eyamie said.
“We’re coming off a record-breaking year in 2020,” Madhani added. “Though the pandemic has wreaked havoc in our world, if there’s a silver lining, it’s that it also sped up our realization that technology and automation are drivers for growth. We came into the market as disruptors, so we can appreciate the bright side of a little disruption.”
By Leo Valiquette