Private equity firm acquires majority interest in Solace Systems in nine-figure deal

A New York-based private equity firm with strong ties to the capital announced Wednesday it has acquired a majority interest in Kanata’s Solace Systems in a deal Solace CEO Craig Betts said might be a record-breaker.

“The investment here is sizeable, and to the best of my knowledge, it is the largest private capital transaction that has ever happened in Ottawa – nine figures U.S. dollars,” Mr. Betts said.

Bridge Growth Partners senior principal and chief administrative officer Tom Manley said his firm sees a huge growth opportunity with Solace.

“I think that Solace is a very unique company that is built on very disruptive, innovative products right at the right time in the marketplace where big data, Internet of Things are just increasing the demands on enterprise infrastructure,” Mr. Manley said.

Mr. Manley, who spent seven years as chief financial officer at Cognos and 16 years as a vice-president at Nortel, still has a home here. The Cognos connection continues with former CEO Rob Ashe and senior vice-president Peter Griffiths both sitting on Bridge Growth’s technology advisory board. Former Ottawa MP and deputy prime minister John Manley is on the firm’s strategic advisory board.

Solace cracked Deloitte’s Technology Fast 500 list in 2014 but did not repeat last year. Mr. Betts said that had no bearing on the deal as the company continues to grow “at a great rate,” adding his company did not need to do the deal.

“When you’ve got a profitable business that is making money, you don’t need to do a deal unless it’s good deal for everybody. This is a shared vision,” he said, adding he knew Mr. Manley socially and started having conversations about a deal six months ago.

Mr. Betts said Solace will continue “to do the same things that we were doing but we’re going to be doing that a little bit more aggressively.”

Solace’s current headcount is in the high 100s, and Mr. Bett said he expects that number to eclipse 200 by the end of this year. All the firm’s engineering and IP staff is in Ottawa, which is home to more than half the company’s employees. Solace has sales and marketing personnel in various locations around the world.

The company produces two types of hardware routers and recently launched a software-based router, which Mr. Betts said offers the company many opportunities.

“We want to chase them all,” he said, adding that Bridge Growth’s involvement will help Solace do just that.

As part of the deal, Mr. Manley and Bridge Growth Partners co-founder Alok Singh will join Solace’s board of directors.

Mr. Singh and Sander Levy co-founded Bridge Growth in 2013 after careers in well-established private equity firms. The firm focuses on software technology and specialty financial services, Mr. Manley said.