Computable 100 | Best performing Software & IT companies in the Netherlands 2023



Private equity firms strengthen their hold on the Dutch IT market

Hyper Automation, Cloud Adoption, and MSPs Gain Popularity

The Dutch IT market is witnessing a positive trend, as reflected in the financial top 100. According to Corporate Finance International (CFI), the overall market experienced substantial growth in 2022, primarily due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, there was a post-pandemic effect, but from October of that year, there was a shift towards investing in automation. These investments became noticeable in 2022, although the growth in 2023 is expected to be slower.

Many IT companies are achieving more positive results compared to previous years, with an increasing number vying for a spot on the list. However, there’s a degree of distortion compared to earlier years because CFI, responsible for compiling the annual financial list for Computable 100, had more time for their research due to delayed availability of financial year results. Due to this delayed availability of financial year results from certain companies, CFI had additional time to gather more results from other ICT companies, resulting in both an increase in the quantity of contenders and a larger number of exclusions.

Afas Software

Once again, Afas Software claims the top spot, maintaining a consistent story of growth according to Randy de Visser, Vice President at CFI. Their revenue grows annually between 10 and 15 percent, acquiring 344 new customers with a net growth of 261 customers. Their ‘sticky business’ stems from the integration of their mission-critical software into daily operations, making it difficult for clients to switch. Moreover, Afas showcases a strategy focusing less on growth and more on profitability, aligning well with current trends. De Visser highlights the importance of the ‘rule of 40’ for software firms in this context. “The combined growth percentage and EBITDA margin should exceed 40 percent. If you surpass that threshold, you’re doing well. Afas demonstrates an average revenue growth of 14 percent, coupled with an EBITDA margin of 50 percent, significantly surpassing the 40 percent mark.”

De Visser notes Afas’ strategy of expanding their offerings by selling more modules, known as cross-selling. Their ability to sustain growth rates and EBITDA margins demonstrates a steady growth strategy, solidifying their position year after year.

Adyen

Adyen, positioned second after two consecutive years at seventh place, experienced a 33 percent growth in 2022, averaging 57 percent over three years. Their strategy revolves around expanding services for existing customers (cross-selling), mirroring Afas’ approach. However, despite this growth, their stock market performance faced downward pressure, impacting expected profitability. While impressive, CFI doesn’t foresee Adyen overtaking Afas due to profit margin pressures and a declining EBITDA margin.

The prediction raises questions: could margin pressures alone prevent Adyen from surpassing Afas? Ramon Schuitevoerder, Partner and Managing Director at CFI, acknowledges this concern but highlights Afas’ conservative solvency, contrasting with Adyen’s model, especially in uncertain scenarios like a global health crisis affecting payment transactions. This trait is often observed in family-owned enterprises, as they prioritise cash management.

Ciphix and Hyper Automation

The possibility of Adyen overtaking Afas remains uncertain, with new challengers entering the fray, notably Ciphix, a high-ranking newcomer. Mentha Capital’s investment and their focus on hyper automation, particularly in robotic process automation (RPA) and AI, catapulted them to prominence. This convergence encapsulates the trend of private equity and hyper automation shaping the market.

Hyper automation, characterised by automating repetitive tasks through robots, gained momentum due to the pandemic, elevating RPA from structured to unstructured data using AI. Ciphix’s growth stems from specialising in bots for unstructured data and incorporating AI into their expertise, a trend expected to persist.

De Visser explains how artificial intelligence is integrated into solutions, making it challenging to distinctly highlight it as a separate development in the list. “AI will significantly impact the list, but these don’t necessarily have to be explicitly AI-centric entities.” Schuitevoerder is firmer in this view, seeing this as the pivotal year for AI. “Companies are all moving forward in the realm of artificial intelligence, even if we might not see traditional AI-driven enterprises. It’s crucial to adapt to AI; otherwise, you risk falling behind in a few years. Those not investing in AI are missing out on innovation.”

Private Equity Influence

Mentha Capital’s involvement, seen through Ciphix’s rise and other entities like Rapid Circle and newcomer Bright River, signals a significant influence of private equity in the top 10. Another illustration of private equity’s enduring impact is the acquisition of Cloud Security Group by Interstellar in 2023. The acquisition of Cloud Security Group underscores the trend of strengthening managed service propositions, particularly in cloud-related security. The growing presence of private equity firms in the top 10 indicates a pattern of buy-and-build strategies. As for Interstellar, they’re positioned at fifteenth place in this year’s list.

Cloud Adoption and International Investments

Moreover, international investments in Dutch IT companies, exemplified by KidsKonnect and their transition between private equity investors (sold by Vortex Capital Partners to Five Arrows), signify a trend of selling to international investors. This has also occurred with players like NetRom, Odin, Dept, and so forth.

The attractiveness of the Dutch market, especially its technological advancements and cloud adoption, appeals to UK and US-based investors seeking to expand technologies into the Dutch market. In terms of technology, the Dutch market is ahead of other countries, particularly in cloud adoption. According to De Visser, “Scaling up, maintaining, and developing on the cloud is easier than on premise infrastructures. The Scandinavian countries and the entire Benelux region are compelling areas for investors to step into. They utilise a Dutch company as a launching pad for their European buy-and-build strategy. Entering a market where these solutions are not yet widespread is more straightforward than competing in a market already served by established suppliers.”

Newcomers in top 10

In the seventh and eighth positions, two recent entries feature in the top 10: Moving Intelligence and Bright River. Moving Intelligence, backed by a British investor, specialises in vehicle tracking systems, providing solutions for vehicle security, trip logging, and fleet management. However, within this sector, as highlighted by Schuitevoerder, several entities operate: “In cases of theft, their system can pinpoint the location. It operates on a subscription model with appealing profit margins. Notably, the subscription offers a level of assurance, and in the event of theft, the software aids in recovery, consistently delivering added value to the clientele.”

Bright River focuses on image editing and computer vision solutions. De Visser states: “They offer extensive photo editing services to retailers, brands, e-commerce platforms, and real estate. Their objective revolves around consistency, striving for utmost realism in photographs. This endeavour contributes to heightened conversion rates and diminishes the frequency of product returns. Given that returns generally represent a substantial financial burden, the investment in Bright River offers a notable return on investment for the clientele.”

Managed services

The top 10 is completed by Rapid Circle and the Odin Group, with a subtle focus also placed on the 11th position occupied by TSH. According to Schuitevoerder, these three companies share similarities. “They all operate as Managed Service Providers (MSPs). There are resemblances in their financial performance, noting Rapid Circle’s faster growth rate and TSH’s highest profitability,” he explains. De Visser adds: “Rapid Circle exhibits relatively faster growth, while Odin Group does so on an absolute level. Odin also generates a significantly higher revenue, akin to TSH.”

Schuitevoerder emphasises that these three companies all receive support from private equity. “TSH engages in more acquisitions, suggesting they will likely surpass Odin in size next year. Although Odin also conducts acquisitions, TSH is more active in this domain. Rapid Circle has executed a few smaller acquisitions, including ones in Australia, showcasing relatively greater growth.” Consequently, this leads to the latest trend identified by CFI experts when examining the top 10 of the financial top 100: MSPs backed by investors employing a buy-and-build strategy, akin to companies like Hallo, and Future Proof Group.

Schuitevoerder continues: “The trend of MSPs has been ongoing for some time, wherein many activities are outsourced to an IT partner. While numerous providers persist in the market, their numbers have decreased compared to the past. Hence, the strategy toward international expansion is becoming increasingly crucial.”

Future trends

CFI experts highlight emerging trends like a heightened focus on ESG and CSR, emphasising social contributions as a talent magnet and a consumer preference. Compliance and legislation, encompassing data security, and quantum computing represent upcoming influences on the financial standings of companies, potentially reshaping the landscape within five to ten years.

This overview indicates a dynamic landscape within the Dutch IT market, driven by private equity, technology trends, international investments, and a shifting emphasis on societal contributions and technological advancements.

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