Battery Ventures to acquire majority stake in Ortec

The private equity firm will help the decision-support software and data science company bolster its product offering via acquisitions, says partner Zak Ewen.

Michael van Dujin, Ortec, and Zak Ewen, Battery Ventures
Michael van Dujin, Ortec CEO, and Zak Ewen, Battery Ventures partner

Battery Ventures is making a majority investment in Ortec, a Dutch decision-support software and data science company that counts blue-chip names like ASML, Coca-Cola and Shell among its customers. The private equity firm will support acquisitions to boost the company’s product portfolio, Battery partner Zak Ewen told PE Hub Europe.

The investment is in the triple digit millions, while the company has “well north” of €150 million of revenue, said Ewen. “It’s a pretty substantial company, it’s profitable, it’s growing nicely.”

The investment comes as Ortec crystallises its three main products: supply chain, workforce management, and data science and consulting. The company had operated along these lines internally but the division is becoming an external position too.

“It’s changing the way we think about the growth opportunity going forward, including inorganically,” said Ewen. “The business has made a series of small acquisitions throughout its history. But going forward with Battery, we will focus on larger, more transformational acquisitions as well.”

Those acquisitions will “empower and expand our existing product portfolio”, he added.

The company has over 1,200 customers, including ASML, Heineken, Coca-Cola, Proctor & Gamble, Shell, Waitrose and Tesco. “These are big enterprises with big tech budgets who view Ortec as a sophisticated business partner, not just a software business,” said Ewen. “They’re not providing a basic CRM application; they’re providing a mission-critical enterprise application.”

Such systems are becoming more important thanks to the “tonne of pressure on supply chains everywhere”, said Ewen, such as the nearshoring trend and unexpected disruption from global events. “People are putting more and more tech in your hands to optimise and understand your supply chain, to get visibility, and Ortec is a big component of that.”

Bootstrapped

Despite Battery having first met Ortec over a decade ago, the company has been free of outside investment since being formed by a group of “maths whizzes coming out of university in the Netherlands” in the early 1980s, said Ewen. It has since grown beyond its Zoetermeer headquarters to over 1,000 employees across 13 countries, including a large workforce in the US, which is a big growth market for the business. Acquisitions could also help push into new regions or grow in existing regions.

“It’s quite rare to hit that level of scale in the software world without taking venture capital or private equity,” said Ewen. “It’s a super impressive story and we’re really pumped to be to be part of it.”

Ortec decided to bring in outside investment because it is on its second generation of leadership, said Ewen, with CEO Michael van Duijn and CFO Rik Boer having taken over the day-to-day running of the business some years ago, although the founders will remain invested and on the board.

“To their credit, they were encouraging the founders to empower them with a capital partner who can help bring the business to the next level of scale,” said Ewen. A big component is the US growing in importance, “where they’re looking for a global investor who can back this story”.

Do the maths

Ortec originally revolved around operations research and using algorithms to solve sophisticated business problems. Once the company realised it was solving the same problems for different businesses, it built software to cover two areas: supply chain – the “biggest chunk of the business” – and workforces, while retaining the consulting business as a third strand.

“They help optimise your supply chain, specifically the transport and routing element,” said Ewen. “They’re experts in optimising routing patterns and paths. If you’ve got a fleet with thousands of vehicles and you need to get things from point A to point B in a specific order at a specific time with a specific set of constraints, they help you do that with their software application.”

Ortec is “the last independent company of scale” in the supply-chain sector, said Ewen. The sector has many smaller businesses, but Ortec’s competitors in the past have been companies like Quintiq, which Dassault acquired, and Roadnet, which was acquired by Omnitracs. Today it competes with companies like Jaycar, Manhattan and Blue Yonder.

“These are either large public companies or very large private equity-owned businesses,” said Ewen. “Big, multi-billion-dollar software businesses. Then you have Ortec which really holds its own and is really known for its emphasis on the underpinning mathematics. When a customer chooses Ortec, it’s because they performed the best in a scenario. Customers will run hypothetical route or supply chains through multiple vendors. People choose Ortec because we win in that scenario.”

The workforce software works in a similar way, except substituting in constraints such as labour law or regulations. “You can’t schedule a doctor to work on nurse shifts,” said Ewen by way of example. “Anaesthesiologists can’t show up for work and not have the right equipment” – Ortec matches the resources, he said.

HR is a complex and competitive market, where Ortec’s edge is with large workforces subject to a lot of variables, said Ewen. “Half of our businesses in healthcare have a lot of regulation based on working hours, on title, on union rules, labour rules, etcetera for large institutions. That’s really where we shine and we’ll continue to do so. People come to us because we have the most sophisticated kit in that market.”

In the third consultancy strand, Ortec “regularly bumps up against and wins against McKinsey, BCG, Accenture, these types of businesses”, said Ewen.

Double Dutch

Battery invests in sectors such as software and services, enterprise infrastructure and online marketplaces. Ewen is based in its London office, while it also has a footprint in Boston, San Francisco, Menlo Park, New York and Herzliya in Israel.

The firm has had a busy, data-themed start to the year, including leading a $73 million Series B funding round via its venture arm in London-headquartered Hyperexponential, a developer of pricing-decision software for insurers.

“We can deploy capital through cycles across the stage spectrum, which is so critical to Battery,” said Ewen. “We’re doing it in the US and Europe. We’re finding opportunities. We’re definitely not doom and gloom, but we know there are challenges out there.”

Ortec is Battery’s second Dutch deal in recent months. It acquired Skalar Analytical, a manufacturer of chemistry analysers and laboratory automation products, in September.