Ottawa’s Corel enters emerging sales support field with latest acquisition

Corel
Corel's office building on Carling Avenue, as seen in 2014. (Photo by Coolcaesar / Wikimedia)

Ottawa software company Corel is entering the holiday season with an acquisition, wrapping up a sales engagement platform in its suite of creative products.

Corel announced last week it had acquired SaaS firm ClearSlide, a San Francisco-based developer of sales support software that counts The Economist and Buzzfeed among its customers. Financial details of the deal were not disclosed.

The 32-year-old Ottawa firm’s products, such as CorelDRAW and WinZip, fall largely into the creativity and business utilities space, but in recent years the firm has looked to expand its portfolio. Corel branched into product management with an acquisition in 2016 and hired software veteran Brad Jewett as chief financial officer earlier this year to lead its M&A strategy.

In an interview with OBJ, Corel’s vice-president of global products Gérard Métrailler says the ClearSlide acquisition represents a significant market opportunity in sales engagement.

“We’re entering a new field for Corel, but certainly a very attractive field,” he says.

Sales engagement or enablement typically refers improving the quality of interactions between a sales team and potential customers, as well as delivering analytics on what techniques work for which kinds of clients. ClearSlide’s solution includes a hub for organizing marketing materials and a guided selling system to optimize the process.

Michael Schultz, ClearSlide’s vice-president of marketing and business development, says this field is slated to become a multibillion-dollar market in the next few years. The acquisition gives ClearSlide the global reach it needs to capitalize on the growing industry, he says.

“It was a recognition that the sales enablement market was really starting to explode,” Mr. Schulz tells OBJ.

“Corel has users and businesses all around the world, and a great partner network. For us, it was the ability to take ClearSlide worldwide and have the opportunity to really grow this business.”

Few changes are expected in both ClearSlide’s California offices and Corel’s Ottawa home on Carling Avenue. Most of the collaboration will happen in the combined firm’s global offices. Mr. Schulz does say he’s been promised a visit to Ottawa –though he may hold off for the warmer months.

Asked if Corel is done with acquisitions, Mr. Métrailler says they’re not off the table, but that the company will be focusing on supporting its existing portfolio in the near future.

“If there’s opportunities, we’ll look into it, but our focus is now really to make this one work and also to continue to spend the right effort and really focus on the products we already own,” he says.

Serial entrepreneur Michael Cowpland founded Corel in 1985. Once one of the Ottawa’s most prominent software firms with a name that adorned the city’s NHL arena and its Carling Avenue office building, Corel has downsized in recent years.

Vector Capital – which owned Corel prior to its US$69-million IPO in 2006 – purchased the company for a second time in 2010 and privatized the local firm. Since then, Corel has undergone layoffs and restructuring, but company executives say the firm’s operating income tripled between 2012 and 2015.