Ottawa M&A firm Sampford Advisors expanding to Toronto

Toronto

After just a year and a half in business, Ottawa’s Sampford Advisors is taking its mergers and acquisitions expertise to Toronto.

The company, which helps tech companies through the complicated waters of M&A, employs six people in Ottawa and is adding Evan Pilz as its man on the ground in the GTA.

Sampford Advisors recently helped local firm Quarterhill close its first-ever acquisition. Sampford president and CEO Ed Bryant says the Quarterhill acquisition has been an exciting project for the firm. When Sampford first met the company last summer, Quarterhill was Wi-LAN, operating solely in patent licensing. Today, its business is focused on acquisitions in the emerging industrial Internet of Things sector, employing a strategy that Mr. Bryant says Sampford was able to help map out.

“That was the fun bit, we had a bit of a blank sheet of paper,” he tells OBJ. “That whole strategy was us working with them to think it through.”

The firm is working on two transactions at the moment, including assisting Magor Corp. with its strategic review. Mr. Bryant says he anticipates business to pick up in a hurry, especially with the Toronto expansion.

The GTA was the logical first step for Sampford Advisors outside of Ottawa, Mr. Bryant says, adding it was just a matter of time to find the right person to set up the shop. Mr. Pilz had the right mix of experience with the kinds of small and medium-sized technology companies that Sampford Advisors works with.

There’s “so much” activity from tech companies in both Ottawa and Toronto, according to Mr. Bryant. That’s why he’s surprised that, from his outlook, there isn’t more M&A advisory competition in Toronto.

“We initially thought that there was a lot of competition there for what we do, mergers and acquisitions advisory, but there really isn’t. There’s not really anyone doing a good job,” he says.

Mr. Bryant believes there are fewer differences between the two Ontario tech hubs than observers may believe. Companies in both cities are doing well in the growing software industry, he says, but where the two differ is in the willingness of investors to pour money in Toronto firms. Venture capitalists have come around to see Toronto as a burgeoning tech hub, but perceptions of Ottawa still lag behind.

“That would be the biggest difference,” he says.