Picture-perfect deal: Ottawa digital imaging software maker bought by California firm

Digital printing
Digital printing

An Ottawa software company that’s become a global leader in the personalized printing space says it’s poised to tap into new markets after being acquired by a U.S. digital imaging technology giant.

CADlink Technology Corp. – whose products include specialized software that helps print personalized T-shirts, caps and other items – has been acquired by EFI Fiery, the software arm of California-based digital imaging powerhouse Electronics for Imaging. Terms of the deal, which closed on Tuesday, were not disclosed.

Founded in 1987, CADlink is a global force in the burgeoning field of digital printing, engraving and sign-making software, doing business in nearly 50 countries. The company’s main customers are manufacturers of high-tech printers, engravers and related imaging devices and print shops that produce customized items such as clothing and household items adorned with digitally printed reproductions of personal photographs.

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Now at more than 40 employees, the firm says its sales have skyrocketed during the pandemic as the e-commerce boom triggered a wave of online printing operations that cater to consumers who want keepsakes such as customized T-shirts, mugs and hats delivered on demand.

“Our growth has been exponential over the last few years, and we’re looking to make it even bigger.”

“Obviously, when the pandemic first started we were very concerned,” Mike Chramtchenko, CADlink’s director of marketing and international sales, told Techopia on Thursday. 

“But the silver lining, if you can say there was one, was that there was an explosion in online business transactions. The personalization-customization market is perfectly suited to online transactions.”

While CADlink’s revenues have been rising steadily over the past few years, Chramtchenko said the firm’s eight partners felt they’d taken the self-funded venture as far as it could go.

Several of the Ottawa firm’s key executives, including co-founder and CEO Gordon Reynen, were looking to exit the business and plan to retire after helping guide the organizations through the merger.

“Our growth has been exponential over the last few years, and we’re looking to make it even bigger,” Chramtchenko said. “We were just incapable of growing any more without this type of (deal). We’re almost at our peak right now, and having EFI behind us is tremendous. For us, the timing for this is absolutely perfect.”

Software industry analyst Greg Cholmondeley said the deal makes sense for both companies.

“The technology to produce customized and personalized garments, engraved products, vehicle wraps, and other merchandise has transformed the printing industry and requires capable software to create and lay out those designs,” Cholmondeley, an analyst at research firm Keypoint Intelligence, said in a statement.

“CADlink and EFI are well positioned to integrate the design, layout … and printing processes in ways that will be key to meet evolving customer demands.”

CADlink has traditionally brought in most of its revenues from U.S.-based customers. But recently the company has made significant inroads in continental Europe, which now accounts for nearly half its sales. 

EFI Fiery chief operating officer Toby Weiss said the Ottawa software maker’s technology dovetails well with the California firm’s products. 

‘Enormous market’

EFI – which employs about 2,400 people and generates hundreds of millions of dollars in annual sales – targets its Fiery-branded software at industrial-scale printing operations rather than the smaller online merchants that are CADlink’s bread and butter. Weiss said the company was looking to broaden its customer base and thinks it’s found the perfect partner to help it do that.

“CADlink brings a whole new set of capabilities … and a little smaller operation, so we can take their products and services and bring them worldwide,” he said. “We felt like this was a great opportunity to take their expertise and their technology and just make it bigger – offer it in more countries, give it a little bit more of a push. 

“This is an enormous market. Anyone can sell customized stuff. The ability to do commerce is exploding, and it’s really becoming individualized. It became very obvious that this was a perfect fit.”

Joining forces with EFI gives CADlink additional sales and marketing muscle in regions such as Asia where the Ottawa company wasn’t as firmly entrenched, Weiss added.

“We’ve got a lot more feet on the street,” he said. “The idea is to leverage everything we can and expand.”

The CADlink team will remain based in the National Capital Region, Weiss said. He also hinted that the firm’s local office will continue to grow under its new owners. 

“This is about growth, and Ottawa seems like a great place to have people,” he said. “There’s a giant talent war going on for highly skilled (workers), and it’s kind of nice to be able to add such great people … in a market that isn’t your traditional Silicon Valley or Boston. It might not be on the radar of some other companies.”

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