CDPQ Invests CA $125 Million in Quebec-Based GSoft
The Caisse de dépôt et placement du Quebec is making yet another nine-figure bet on a homegrown technology company, investing $125-million in Montreal software company GSoft Inc.
The Quebec pension giant is taking an undisclosed stake in the bootstrapped company, created 17 years ago by a trio of 20-year-olds who have never raised outside funding and still run the profitable company, including chief executive Simon de Baene. GSoft this year surpassed the US$100-million mark in annualized recurring revenue and is on track to repeat last year’s sales growth rate of nearly 30 per cent, Mr. De Baene said in an interview.
Mr. De Baene said the proceeds will be used to fuel acquisitions after GSoft tested the waters early this year by buying a small learning management system company from Quebec City.
“For a long time I was not a big fan of doing acquisitions,” he said, adding GSoft had always focused on building its own tools and relying on sales and “sweat and a lot of passion” to fund its growth. “I wanted us to build everything ourselves. Over time, maybe due to maturity or a better understanding of the business world, acquisitions became an option, and now it’s part of the strategy. The kinds of acquisitions we want to do are not that small, so for that we need capital.”
Kim Thomassin, executive vice-president and head of Quebec with the Caisse, said her organization had tracked GSoft for years and that the investment is similar to other $100-million-plus commitments it has made in several Quebec technology companies, including Lightspeed Commerce Inc., Nuvei Corp., Plusgrade Inc., Hopper Inc., Talent.com Inc. and Previan Technologies Inc.
The Caisse has also been a long-term investor in giant acquisitive Quebec companies such as Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. (ATD-T), WSP Global Inc. (WSP-T), and CGI Inc. in accordance with its dual, provincial government mandate to both seek investment returns for depositors and support the Quebec economy.
“We see it as an opportunity to invest in a Quebec company that has a clear vision for its long-term future,” Ms. Thomassin said. “We often say we invest into a team first and foremost, then a product, then the deal. We like the management; Simon and his partners have shown their resilience and executed their strategy. "
She noted other Caisse-backed companies “started with one, two, three acquisitions initially, and they became serial acquirers and have built great platforms.”
GSoft started out as a typical for-hire software contractor, founded by Mr. De Baene in 2006 with fellow École de technologie supérieure engineering student Sébastien Leduc (who is now chief operating officer) and a third friend, Guillaume Roy, who leads product development. They shifted in 2009 into building their own products for business customers.
The Montreal company, which is based out of a century-old former Northern Electric factory in Montreal’s Pointe-St-Charles, made a big bet on the cloud-based Microsoft 365 business software platform early on: GSoft built its own tool, called ShareGate, which is used primarily by tens of thousands of information technology professionals to navigate the Microsoft program more effectively through a user-friendly interface.
“Microsoft built a co-pilot and we’re the co-pilot for the co-pilot,” Mr. De Baene said, adding that the giant U.S. tech company “really count[s] on vendors like us to build the technology that is missing or can work on top of their technology.”
GSoft has also created human resources management programs called Officevibe, Softstart and this spring introduced its latest tool, Talentscope, a software program that helps organization track the skills of employees and identify areas for improvement. It has 16,000 corporate customers in more than 100 countries – primarily serving the U.S., Canadian and British markets. Mr. De Baene said GSoft will focus on acquiring companies that can broaden its offering to enterprise customers, noting “the timing is good” for acquisitions after software valuations crashed from inflated levels in 2020 and 2021.
The timing is perfect for more acquisitions and if they hold off a year, it will be even better.
CDPQ also put out a press release on this CA$125 million investment to accelerate GSoft's growth strategy:
At CDPQ, we invest constructively to generate sustainable returns over the long term. As a global investment group managing funds for public pension and insurance plans, we work alongside our partners to build enterprises that drive performance and progress. We are active in the major financial markets, private equity, infrastructure, real estate and private debt. As at December 31, 2022, CDPQ’s net assets totalled CAD $402 billion. For more information about CDPQ, visit cdpq.com, follow us on Twitter or consult our Facebook or LinkedIn pages.
CDPQ is a registered trademark owned by Caisse de dépôt et placement du Québec and licensed for use by its subsidiaries.
GSoft is a software company on a mission to create products that make work simpler, kinder and faster. With thousands of companies in more than 100 countries as customers, we enable people to work at their best through products that improve the employee experience:
- ShareGate, a leading Microsoft 365 management solution
- Officevibe, software designed to equip HR leaders and managers with the tools they need to bring out the best in their teams
- Softstart, software that transforms the employee onboarding into a vibrant, organized and efficient experience
- Didacte, a learning management system (LMS) designed to build, manage and monitor employee training
- Talentscope, software that empowers people-first teams to map their skills, develop their talents and accelerate their growth to create more engaging and productive workplaces
Our GSoft team is made up of 400 people united around a shared passion for building software that makes work really work.
GSoft just won the lottery with this CA $125 million investment from CDPQ.
And I'm not referring to the money, it's CDPQ's network and their ability to advise the company on their strategic acquisitions from here on.
Anyone can acquire small tech companies with a $125 million in the bank but CDPQ will also advise GSoft on how to do this intelligently.
GSoft however is very impressive as it was bootstrapped and profitable since its foundation 17 years ago.
I checked out their website and liked what I read and saw:
It’s software with a people flair.
We’ve got that DIY Montreal spirit here. Which means we’re not afraid to try new things. We’re self-financed, so basically, we’re our own bosses. That gives us the flexibility to be bolder, quicker, and to pick our battles. We believe good tech (and good vibes) comes from good people.
We’re generous to the core. We’re easygoing, but we also love to get stuff done. Every day we give our best. Our talks are real, so we can grow. And we love to celebrate our little victories. If this sounds like you, we want to meet you.
If I was a young programmer looking to make software "simpler, kinder and faster", I'd be applying to go work here and learn from very smart and dedicated people.
Anyways, it's kind of a no-brainer for CDPQ which has a dual mandate to support the growth of this software company because it's profitable and growing fast.
CDPQ has made $100-million-plus commitments in several Quebec technology companies, including Lightspeed Commerce Inc., Nuvei Corp., Plusgrade Inc., Hopper Inc., Talent.com Inc. and Previan Technologies Inc.
To be honest, the success has been mixed but I think that timing played a factor.
For example, CDPQ still owns 16% of Lightspeed shares and after popping and making a high in 2021, shares have since flopped:
It's still a great tech company but for whatever reason, it's out of favor these days as people are more focused on buying AI bubbles.
To be fair, Shopify shares have been on fire this year after getting decimated over the past two years:
But they're a long way off their historic peak and this year's rally could be short-lived.
Maybe one day CDPQ will help take GSoft public and they can earn nice returns there.
I like these small Quebec-based tech companies, there are many good ones but only the best will receive funding from CDPQ.
And given my bearish thoughts on the Nasdaq, I prefer CDPQ invests in tech intelligently through private markets, either directly or through funds like Silverlake and Thoma Bravo.
Alright, let me wrap it up there.
Once again, congratulations to GSoft, wish this company much success.
Also, congratulations to CDPQ for being ranked first in Infrastructure Investor's Global Investor 50, a ranking of the world's largest institutional investors in infrastructure.
Below, spreading the word about GSoft. After today, a lot more people will know about this company.