Latif Nanji wasn’t looking to make a deal.
Roadmunk, the software-as-a-service startup Nanji had co-founded and led since 2012, was growing steadily, with 100 employees in Waterloo Region, Toronto and in several countries around the world.
The product roadmapping software company, born out of a problem Nanji had experienced as a product manager at Miovision and launched through Communitech’s former Hyperdrive accelerator, landed on Deloitte’s Technology Fast 50 in each of the past three years.
But when Tempo Software came along recently to float the idea of a merger, Nanji and his co-founders Tomas Benda and Jalil Asaria couldn’t help but take a look. And the more they looked, the more they liked what they saw.
Tempo, founded in Iceland and with a large presence in Montreal, had a distinctly Canadian feel and a global outlook, though it is majority-owned by U.S.-based Diversis Capital. Its time management, resource planning and budget management products serve teams at several big-name companies, as Roadmunk’s do.
“It’s an incredible Canadian story, quite frankly, and from a cultural perspective, the intangibles are there,” Nanji told Tech News after last week’s announcement that Tempo would acquire Roadmunk (terms of the deal were not disclosed). “They hold very-much-Canadian values in terms of perspective, understanding and putting people first. The fit feels really great from that side of the story.”
Key to the deal on the business side, Nanji said, was Tempo’s intention to put significant resources behind growing Roadmunk’s brand and team, with Nanji taking on the role of General Manager.
“From the organization’s perspective it’s a milestone, and we’re going to continue to grow,” he said.
Roadmunk has come a long way since Nanji and Benda hatched the company in 2012, amid a general wave of Waterloo Region startup launches that marked the early 2010s. The two had been colleagues at Miovision, a then-small local startup whose technology helped cities keep road traffic moving smoothly.
The product management team had a problem – none of the available software tools were suitable for their needs.
“We were using a combination of ad-hoc tools – Excel, PowerPoint and even Rally, a development tool – to do product management,” Nanji recalled. “And we were frustrated by that, full stop. It was really painful.”
Nanji and Benda felt that a more visual solution was needed, to help product management teams “really understand what they were looking at.
“So that was when Tomas and I said, ‘We’re going to go build this software.’”
Six months later, with a prototype in development, the co-founders approached Communitech, which had launched its first startup accelerator, Hyperdrive, the previous year. Communitech invited Roadmunk to join the program, which plugged the fledgling company into a network of advisers, pitch coaches and potential investors.
“Communitech became hugely supportive because they knew what we were trying to accomplish,” Nanji said. “They helped us with our pitch, they helped us get the BDC $150,000 cheque at the end – not all the companies got that – and that became a huge part of the story.”
Looking back after almost nine years, Nanji said the program helped set Roadmunk up for success by validating its approach, surrounding it with advisers who helped frame their offering, and helping build the pitch deck it used to land key seed investments.
“If it wasn’t for that experience, we might have been bootstrapping harder than we wanted to,” he said.
Communitech also plugged Roadmunk into a broader network of support including the DMZ incubator in Toronto, which provided space for two years as it progressed beyond the launch phase.
“It’s about having a community that stands behind an entrepreneur,” Nanji said. “It’s about having a community saying, ‘You can do this,’ and then putting the resources behind it. They’re not just your cheerleaders; they’re your coaches, they’re your physiotherapists, they’re your strength-training coaches.
“They are the full-service gym you go to when you need to get your body in shape for a startup, and that’s what Communitech really is. It’s that full-service experience, and having that motivation of the community behind your back at all times is how you build entrepreneurial Olympians.”
When it came to deciding to join Tempo, Nanji said it came down to strategic alignment that would help Roadmunk advance more quickly than it would have on its own.
“We were not looking, to be honest; we had not run a process,” he said. “It was only when they came to us that we started to look up.”
The Tempo team “shared the same product vision of the market, and that was really compelling. I looked at that and I said, Huh, they see what I see. That means I know that if we go down this road, I know that my product is going to be in great hands and that we will be able to work together.”
Nanji said he wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.
“I didn’t want an acquisition where there wasn’t a strategic fit,” he said. “It wouldn’t feel right, and so that was why this, to me, made a ton of sense.”