Feenics rising: security software maker sees big upside in acquisition by U.S. firm

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An Ottawa firm whose technology helps customers control access to secure worksites has been sold to a U.S. company in a move aimed at opening doors to new global markets.

Feenics has been acquired by security technology provider ACRE, the Nevada-based firm announced this week. Terms were not disclosed.

Founded in 2010, Feenics makes a cloud-based platform that powers electronic key-card readers and keyless entry systems while allowing customers to control and monitor thousands of doors from their mobile devices and desktops. 

The subscription-based software sends alerts when security systems are breached and can be married with video surveillance software to track traffic in and out of secure sites. 

The firm is in the midst of a growth spurt that’s seen its revenues surge more than 700 per cent in the past three years. Its customers include private corporations, schools and government organizations, most of which are located in the U.S. and Canada, but the company also has a growing client base in Europe.

CEO Sam Shalaby told Techopia the bootstrapped firm needed the financial and marketing heft of a larger organization behind it in order to expand its footprint in new markets. He said Feenics “had a lot of options” to choose from when it came to potential buyers, but ACRE’s pledge to retain and grow its operations in the National Capital Region sealed the deal.

"What was important for us was to keep everybody here in Ottawa and grow the company here."

“What was important for us was to keep everybody here in Ottawa and grow the company here,” said Shalaby, who will remain the firm's chief executive after it moves under the ACRE umbrella. “That’s exactly what we were looking for, and that’s exactly what happened.”

Launched in 2012, ACRE develops network security solutions for customers in more than two dozen countries. Its parent company, Dublin-based Triton, acquired ACRE earlier this year and now owns a portfolio of nearly 50 firms with combined annual sales of $30 billion.

ACRE chief executive Joe Grillo said his firm pledged to find new products to meet rising demand for cloud-based security platforms as part of that deal, and Feenics was the perfect partner to help it achieve that goal. 

“Not only is it profitable and has experienced double-digit growth, but it fits in well with our business, both in terms of culture and industry background,” Grillo said in an email to Techopia, adding both companies have “decades of experience within the access control industry and are well-known for developing strategies that result in steady, sustainable growth.”

Feenics has about 40 employees, 30 of whom are based in Ottawa and the remainder in the U.S. Shalaby said the firm is looking to hire additional software developers and build out its marketing team on both sides of the border as it continues to add new features to its products.

Supply-chain bottlenecks

For example, while its system currently allows users to trace people’s movements by tracking doors they’ve passed through, Shalaby says the firm is now working on incorporating GPS technology into its software.

Still, as impressive as Feenics’ rise has been, Shalaby said supply-chain bottlenecks that have plagued companies from carmakers to appliance manufacturers during the pandemic have been a thorn in its side.

He said a shortage of key components such as microchips has forced the company to scale back production despite rising demand for its software. 

“Otherwise, we could have grown much faster,” Shalaby said. “We hope in six or seven months that things will start going back to normal.”

COVID-related challenges aside, the veteran CEO was in a buoyant mood on Thursday. 

Joining forces with ACRE and its multibillion-dollar parent gives Feenics the financial wherewithal to accelerate its R&D efforts while pushing into new territories and boosting its customer base, Shalaby said.

“We need the experience, we need the backing, and they’re going to provide us all that,” he said.