“Bittersweet”: Family-run tech company Task acquired for $120 million

Daniel and Dean Houden. Source: supplied.

Australian family-run tech company Task has been acquired by New Zealand marketing software company Plexure Group, for a whopping $120 million.

Task is a transaction management platform that counts the likes of Starbucks, Bakers Delight and Marvel Stadium among its customers.

Founded out of the family garage by husband and wife team Jennifer and Kym Houden 20 years ago, the business is now headed up by sons Daniel Houden and Dean Houden as chief executive and chief operating officer, respectively.

Following the acquisition, Daniel is set to become chief of Plexure Group.

The family-run business has taken on no external capital to date, and in the 2021 financial year saw about $13.5 million in pro-forma revenue. The majority of that came from customers in North America.

Plexure will fund the acquisition through $30 million paid in cash on completion, plus $78.5 million in shares issued, at a value pf $0.60 per share — a premium of 11.1%.

The shares issued amount to a 42.9% ownership stake in Plexure. 

An additional $11.5 million in shares will be awarded to Task employees, under a scheme designed to reward high performance.

Speaking to SmartCompany, Jennifer Houden says the acquisition is “mind-blowing”.

Over the years, the business has been approached by several entities looking for an acquisition opportunity, she says, and despite the upset of the COVID-19 pandemic — particularly in Task’s “sweet spot” in the hospitality sector — the timing felt right.

“It’s a great opportunity for the company, and especially our two boys, to grow and be part of a publicly listed company.”

Jennifer describes the business as “our baby”, and Dean also tells SmartCompany that Task has felt a little like a fifth family member.

It’s not every day you see a family business in which the younger generation has not only stepped up, but grown the enterprise considerably and helped take it to the next level, and it’s perhaps even less common in the tech sector.

“It’s incredible,” Jennifer says.

She credits Daniel with coming up with a more tech-savvy solution that met customers’ changing needs.

“He just got frustrated and said, ‘I can do it better’, which he did,” she recalls.

Daniel and Dean set out to create their own, unique software product, and that led to a string of business awards and strong growth.

“It grew from nothing to what we have today and the result we’ve got,” Jennifer says.

“Bittersweet”

Dean says Task has always had a startup-style culture, in which he and his brother have been able to “take on anything and create our own destiny”.

In the partnership with Plexure, he saw the opportunity to take the business to the next level with an established business.

Task’s product has evolved over the years, he says, and as the work of transactions and tech continues to evolve, the products provided by Plexure and Task complement each other well, and provide exactly what retailers are looking for.

The family still holds a significant stake in the business and everyone will remain involved in some capacity at least.

Still, Dean says “it’s bittersweet”.

“There’s also the element of my parents who are coming to the age of wanting to retire, wanting to know the business to be successful moving forward,” he says. 

However, Dean doesn’t see his parents putting their feet up on a faraway beach anytime soon. The day-to-day running of the business has been in the hands of the boys for a while now, but Kym in particular, has a work ethic that won’t let him rest for long, Dean says.

“He’ll never stop working. He loves to be a part of it in any sort of fashion. I assume he’ll be hanging around in the office.”

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