Pythian acquires Chicago-area firm in bid to bolster cloud service offerings

Keith Angell
Keith Angell was named CEO of Pythian last June. File photo

After hiring a seasoned data management executive last week to bolster its C-suite, Pythian has pulled the trigger on an acquisition aimed at beefing up its cloud-based service offerings for customers of some of the world’s best-known enterprise software brands.

The Ottawa-based data analytics and cloud services provider announced this week it has purchased U.S. firm ManageServe in a deal that closed last Friday. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

A 45-person company headquartered in the Chicago area, ManageServe specializes in working with customers who use software from suppliers such as SAP to manage various aspects of their business, from finance and HR to distribution and supply chains.

With more and more companies moving “complex, mission-critical systems” to cloud-based platforms run by the likes of Google Cloud, Amazon Web Services and Microsoft Azure, demand for secure data-transfer and cloud management experts such as ManageServe is surging, says Pythian CEO Keith Angell.

“It’s not an easy workload to migrate to the cloud,” says Angell, noting that many of those systems also use highly customized third-party applications.

Fills key service gap

Pythian’s chief executive, who joined the firm last June after a 30-year career that included two stints at IBM, says the deal fills a key gap in the Ottawa company’s service offerings. 

SAP is the world’s dominant enterprise software maker with a market share of more than 20 per cent, and more than a third of Pythian’s biggest customers use the German firm’s products to manage their businesses. 

Angell says acquiring ManageServe gives Pythian additional expertise in running systems managed by SAP at a time when tech giants such as Amazon, Google, Microsoft and IBM are also looking to forge closer partnerships with the software leader.

“The SAP world is pretty hot,” he explains. “Those companies are making investments there and we felt that to expand our service offering and really complete that offering, this was the place to go. I feel like we have a very complete service offering now.”

The CEO also has a personal connection to the U.S. firm. As a senior vice-president of San Francisco Bay-area cloud computing company Corio back in the early 2000s, he worked closely with chief operating officer Sabir Kapasi, who went on to launch ManageServe in 2005.

Angell eventually joined ManageServe’s board of directors. When Pythian’s board was eyeing acquisition targets last year, it asked the Ottawa company’s newly installed CEO to inquire whether the Chicago-area enterprise would be interested in a potential M&A opportunity.

“To my surprise, they were,” Angell says, who resigned from ManageServe’s board once talks began.

The New York-based executive says negotiations progressed smoothly, adding both sides see plenty of upside in combining their operations.

New C-suite hire

“Their culture matched really well with our culture,” Angell says. “(Kapasi) is just the most thoughtful, customer-focused technologist that I’ve known in many years.”

The deal closed just a few days after Pythian announced it hired Paul Lewis, a former top executive at a subsidiary of Japanese electronics giant Hitachi, to be its new chief technology officer

Calling Lewis a “cloud visionary,” Angell says the tech veteran further boosts Pythian’s growing credibility in the data management space.

“We’re really excited for (Lewis) to be here,” he says.

Now at about 400 employees, Pythian managed to grow its revenues in 2020 despite the COVID-19-fulled global downturn and is poised for better things to come, Angell says.

“A number of our customers were hurt (by the pandemic), but a lot of them leveraged our skills to survive,” he says. “We see a great year ahead.”