Corel completes acquisition of Belgian software company as CEO predicts ‘more attractive market’ for M&A

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Christa Quarles’ great design for Corel is taking shape.

When Quarles was hired as CEO of the Ottawa-based company known for its CorelDRAW graphic design products nearly two years ago, she was taking over a company she said had all the components of a software company. world class, but didn’t quite know what to do with them.

Simply put, Quarles felt that Corel was suffering from some sort of identity crisis. The California-based tech veteran decided to change that.

Quarles assumed the top job at Corel at the height of the pandemic, as the shift to remote working was in full swing. Looking at Corel’s diverse product stack, she saw a mix that included product management software like MindManager and Corel’s suite of Parallels products, which let Mac users run Windows apps on their devices.

She soon realized that a common theme united all of these platforms.

“We’ve bought a bunch of companies over the years and one of my jobs is to really understand how those pieces fit together into a unified business vision,” says Quarles.

“When I arrived I felt like I had a very disparate set of assets. It didn’t seem like there was a cohesive understanding of how these things might come together. I think what’s super clear to us now is that we’re standing up for the future of work.

By this, Quarles means that Corel makes software that aims to help employees work smarter and more efficiently, whether they’re at home using a Windows-powered desktop computer or in a coffee shop typing emails. and performing tasks on their iPhone.

“We allow you to work where and how you want,” she says.

“What we’re seeing more and more is during the pandemic, people are bringing their phones, they’re bringing their desktops, they’re in a coffee shop, they may be in the office, they may be on a couch. We want to allow people to work anywhere, anytime and anytime, in a very secure way.

Corel has just taken another step toward expanding that vision. The company announced this week that it has acquired Awingu, a European company whose signature platform allows users to securely stream a range of applications to their computer or smartphone browsers without having to download any software.

Awingu’s product is designed to prevent customers from inadvertently introducing viruses and the like to their devices. In many cases, the platform also eliminates the need for users to connect to virtual private networks, which means customers can bypass time-wasting and often inconvenient “friction-filled security processes.” difficult to navigate, adds Quarles.

“Here it’s like you go to a browser, you get it, you go there and you do it,” she says.

The transaction is Corel’s first under new vice president of corporate development, Charles Breed, who was hired last November to lead the company’s acquisitions strategy.

Quarles gave Breed, who previously oversaw the mergers and acquisitions activities of Texas-based identity management software company SailPoint Technologies, the green light to drop any potential purchase that “fits into the wheelhouse” of the mission. Corel to help streamline the future of work.

buyer’s market

Quarles thinks acquisition-focused companies like Corel are headed for a buyer’s market as many tech industry experts predict an impending extended downturn that could see waves of layoffs and slower growth projections for companies. businesses that thrived earlier in the pandemic.

“We’ve seen a significant shift in public market multiples and valuations,” she says. “I think people are becoming very clear about what a strong unit economy is and what the real value is for an end customer and how we deliver that value in an efficient way. I think the market is going to continue to become more attractive to mergers and acquisitions.

Although Corel did not disclose the financial terms of the deal, Quarles said it was bigger than the company’s first M&A transaction under his leadership. last year’s acquisition of ad blocking platform Ad Remover.

Corel would not provide exact headcounts for Awingu, which is headquartered in Ghent, Belgium, and has an office in New York. According to LinkedIn, the company has 35 employees, and Quarles says she expects her number of employees to grow as demand for secure access to technology accelerates in the new world of work. anywhere.

“The intention is not just to keep everyone, but to invest,” she says.

A big data guru joins C-suite

Meanwhile, Quarles is also trying to figure out how to create a more seamless user experience for customers maneuvering between various Corel products like DRAW, the graphic design tool Gravit, and the Painter painting software platform.

Chief data officer Grant Parsamyan, who previously led OpenTable’s analytics department, joined Corel in March to lead its drive to better understand how the company’s software is used and how products can be better integrated with each other. to others.

“Data is the new oil, as they say,” says Quarles. “It’s really about how do you deliver a great product experience at the end of the day? There’s always room for improvement in all areas.

Corel – which was acquired by US private equity giant KKR from Vector Capital for US$1 billion in 2019 – has grown from a company that once made most of its money from licensing fees initial steps to software as a service. organization that now generates the bulk of its revenue from recurring monthly subscription fees.

Quarles says the pendulum will continue to swing in that direction with the acquisition of Awingu.

“We’ve made a ton of progress and we’re going to continue to make progress there,” she said.

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