Ten years after its foundation, the Ghent upscaling Teamleader ends up in the hands of the Norwegian software group Visma. Founder and CEO Jeroen De Wit remains on board and is just as ambitious. “But it takes a little getting used to, yes.”
Jeroen De Wit and Duco Sickinghe have briefly crawled into a back room of the velodrome ‘t Kuipke in Ghent Citadel Park. Teamleader, the software company that De Wit co-founded from the school ten years ago, organized ‘Work Smarter’ on Thursday, a large-scale event where entrepreneurs could be inspired by a battery of their heart’s desire. keynote speakers†
What does the team leader do?
Teamleader is a growth company in Ghent, founded in 2012 by Jeroen De Wit, Willem Delbare, Pieterjan Criel and Mathias De Loore. It offers SMEs a software platform where they can manage their customers, track invoices and manage projects.
Teamleader had a turnover of more than 20 million euros last year and has been profitable for a number of years. It serves around 11,000 customers in Belgium, the Netherlands, Spain, France, Germany and Italy from offices in Ghent and Amsterdam.
With the sale, in addition to the management, a number of financiers pass the cash register. Fortino Capital, the venture capital fund of former Telenet CEO Duco Sickinghe, is the oldest and most important shareholder. Keen Venture Partners, the fund led by former TomTom CEO Alexander Ribbink, and Jonas Dhaenens, CEO of the web hosting company Combell, were also part of the capital. The Flemish investment company PMV entered 2018.
But perhaps more interesting than what happened on the various stages was what was announced on the sidelines of the event: Teamleader is sold, to the Norwegian software specialist Visma. So De Wit and Sickinghe – through investment firm Fortino for years a key shareholder in Teamleader – give us time to give us an explanation, shoulder to shoulder behind a laptop.
De Wit and Sickinghe brotherly side by side, it is a picture we have become accustomed to over the years. Fortino has been in Team Leader’s capital for eight years. During that period, Sickinghe acted as a kind of mentor for De Wit (34).
“Our history largely overlaps,” Sickinghe says. ‘So there will be a vacuum after the sale to Visma. But it’s not sad. That after a while you have to say goodbye to each other, that is the end of an investor’s existence. I see it primarily as something beautiful, a recognition of what we have built together. When we came on board, Teamleader had about ten employees, today there are 190. Teamleader is there, as a company and as a brand. ‘
It is not known exactly how much Visma will pay for the acquisition. But Teamleader fits perfectly into the picture of the Norwegians, who have made it a strategy to recruit smaller local players across Europe and to take advantage of them. Visma does not allow the takeover booty to be recorded anonymously in the larger image. It prefers to provide existing executives and brands with economies of scale and financial stability so that they can continue to grow with the necessary autonomy.
Under Visma’s wings, De Wit’s mission remains unchanged, he says. ‘We are the market leader in our business in Belgium and the Netherlands. The ambition is to achieve this elsewhere in Europe as well. Visma is perfectly positioned to help us accelerate that growth. And I look forward to learning from the leaders of our many affiliates. They have a wealth of knowledge about the challenges we also face. ‘
Hunter and prey
Still, the deal comes as a bit unexpected, for those who have been following Teamleader for some time. For years, De Wit seemed eager to conquer Europe on his own. The company saw itself more as a hunter than as a prey. That Teamleader itself is now included in a larger whole is pure pragmatism, says De Wit. ‘We could do it ourselves, I think we have proved that sufficiently. We have also been profitable since 2019. So it was not a matter of having to. You really have to look at this decision as a pure accelerator of our growth. ‘
You really need to see this sale as a pure accelerator on our growth.
According to Sickinghe, Teamleader has already partially realized its European ambitions as a consolidator, but in a different way than the traditional one. ‘You do not always have to take over other companies to make yourself important. Sometimes this can also be done by making connections. Teamleader has done just that with its app marketplace, which offers solutions to easily integrate its own software with other players’. That adaptability is very strong. ‘
To get used to
With Visma as owner, De Wit will have to work for a boss for the first time in his career. “It’s getting a little weird, yeah,” he smiles. ‘Team leader is still my first work experience. But one of our core values is’be a lobster† Lobsters are highly adaptable animals that adapt to the circumstances. This is how I approach life: I am open to change. Not much will change anyway. I will report to John Reynders, responsible for the Benelux at Visma. But he acts more like a chairman than a leader. It’s a dynamic I know. ‘
I’m like a lobster: I’m open to change.
The sale of Teamleader cuts the business ties between De Wit and Sickinghe. But the duo know that their contact will not disappear. ‘We are both very curious people,’ says De Wit. “I’m sure we’ll keep seeing each other to keep learning from each other.” Sickinghe nods. “Over the years, we have grown more than just a business relationship. Jeroen has been sitting at the kitchen table with me enough. This is not going away. ‘