Intuit Inc.’s acquisition of Tradegecko, a Jungle portfolio company, has been a story of firsts- the first time a global software giant acquired a Southeast Asia tech company, Intuit QuickBooks’ first acquisition in Southeast Asia, and the biggest software exit in the region yet. Not only that, but this deal has also provided Southeast Asia with increased credibility and a proof point to both founders and potential buyers that world-class software is being built in this part of the world.
The transaction also marks Jungle’s third exit in 2020 (and eleventh exit overall), after Paysense (a mobile consumer credit platform) to Naspers and Pokkt (a mobile video advertising solutions provider) to Anymind Group.
TradeGecko is a shining example of Jungle’s ambition to take regional companies global. The Partners at Jungle worked tirelessly with the TradeGecko team over the years leveraging their complementary skill-sets, where each of the partners played a critical role to shape the future of the company. Amit was the longest-serving director who helped them hire senior executives to the team, Chris Reisig, Jungle’s operating partner in the US, helped them set up base and expand their operations in the US, and finally, David Gowdey who played a critical role in the exit to Intuit.
Amit Anand, Founding Partner at Jungle Ventures spoke to Cameron Priest, co-founder of Tradegecko on this deal and how he managed to pull this deal through in the middle of a pandemic. Cameron talks about the untold story behind this transaction and shares a few tips and tricks for founders hoping to achieve a similar result. Here is the excerpt from the conversation.
Amit: Intuit is QuickBooks’ first acquisition in Southeast Asia and the biggest software exit in the region yet. Congratulations, Cameron. How are you feeling?
Cameron: Excited. I think the last few days it’s become very real after announcing to everyone else.
Amit: So our partnership started in 2014 and it’s been great to partner with you on all the rounds since then. What was the vision back then and how has it evolved as the journey’s gone along?
Cameron: I think, I mean the vision has still stayed somewhat the same. We’ve potentially changed the words somewhat, but it’s always been about helping small businesses and small commerce entrepreneurs get online, sell online.
Amit: I’m sure there are a lot of founders right now who want to be in your shoes. Any word of advice for them? How did the process get started? The highs and the lows of the process that you think would be helpful for anybody today?
Cameron: Yes, so we’ve had a relationship with Intuit since we started working together, 2014/ 2015. However, their corporate development team reached out to us early December. Actually the emails went to spam, so I didn’t notice them, and then they reached out through LinkedIn and so on LinkedIn I managed to connect with them and then the conversation started.
We had some very fast and very great and some very good conversations. Obviously then COVID happened and the emotional roller-coaster that I think happened for a lot of companies. And then honestly, from term sheet to close or to signing was 30 days.
I think if I look at the number one thing that Intuit said that kind of really brought them back around and brought them to us in the first place was that we had a really clear vision.
It was very much aligned with theirs. We have always been focused on serving small and medium businesses. There’s many different ways to build a business of course. But for us it was really important that we knew who we were and who we wanted to be.
And when they talked to us, they felt like there was a huge amount of resonance in terms of our visions. I think that, more than anything, has been a big part of why we’ve decided that it would be best working together to achieve our vision.
Amit: It’s interesting you say that. We’ve seen this with our portfolio companies time and time again. Whether it was Twitter acquiring Zipdial, whether it was HomeAway acquiring Travelmob, and now with you guys, it usually starts with the founders.
The management having some alignment of vision, some level of commercial engagement happening and then eventually people feeling that this is a journey we’re taking together. Congrats on making it work.
Amit: I’m very excited for what’s coming next for you. Obviously, you know it still begs the question how did you guys manage this exit during Covid? With nobody able to travel, how did all that work out?
Cameron: So I think we kept the conversation going, which I think is critical. The alignment didn’t shift, and in fact, in our case, the importance of what we wanted to do to get together became much grander because of COVID because small businesses were struggling.
I actually just learned this today but we were the fastest they’ve ever closed and signed a deal and the first time they’ve [Intuit] done it remotely. So I think, it was just a huge amount of lifting on all of the sides.
There’s no secret, it was just a lot of early mornings, a lot of work from the team and a huge amount of work from their side but you know, a couple of my employees really carried a huge amount of the load. So, a lot of work. I think persistence, just getting it done was the critical..-
Amit: Certainly persistence has been a key feature of your team right from day one. You guys have been at this and are the market leaders in this so congratulations.
Amit: For the founders that are building companies in the region, what would your advice be today. If you look back on your journey and maybe had to do it again, which I’m sure you will, what will you tell them?
Cameron: the biggest learning for us trying to build a global business headquartered in Singapore, more time invested and spent building and maintaining great relationships with people that have done it before because there aren’t that many people who have done it before in this region.
At least not what we were trying to achieve which is to build a global software company serving B2Bs, small businesses. So we were obviously inspired by Xero, out of New Zealand and by a huge number of companies out of the United States, out of the United Kingdom, out of Australia.
So making the commitment to invest and building those relationships with people that have come before is so important. Especially, as I said, as we’re building a new eco-system in this region.
Amit : Yeah. And now certainly a lot of these founders can look up to you as the path bearer in terms of building a global product-oriented tech company. So all the best for that. Certainly we are excited to see where you take this forward to.
Cameron: Happy to help people make less mistakes than I did.