Jan 27 2005

eWork/Prosavvy Merger

One of the companies that I work with closely, ProSavvy, announced this week  that it merged with eWork (the combined company will keep the eWork name). The merger creates perhaps the largest private company in the workforce management/services procurement/payroll services business. As part of the merger, Mobius led a new round of financing into the combined business. You can read the press release here. In layman terms, the combined business offers products that allow businesses to manage various aspects of procuring, managing and payrolling temporary employees (contract laborers) and what are called fixed project deliverables (consulting projects). The combined business has three main products: eWork Enterprise – a enterprise software platform for managing contract work (whether that be contract labor, consultants, etc.)  eWork Markets – a platform for procuring contract labor with a bunch of tools for managing that process (whether it be a formal RFP, which the platform can guide a business through or a less formal requirements process) eWork Services – outsourced payroll and HR services This deal makes sense for a bunch of reasons. We’ve been investors in ProSavvy for over 5 years (along with Park Corporation and Pequot). It’s been an interesting road to get here as the business has done a great job of lasting through the tech bust and emerging on the other side. About 3 years ago the company started focusing more on its marketplace (the on-line market it created where companies can request consulting services and member consultants can bid on these projects) and less on delivering an installed software platform. We were finding at the time that companies that were interested in the product as software were starting their software initiatives by controlling their contract labor spend (temporary workers), rather than their fixed project deliverable spending (consultants). They wanted to manage the latter, but doing so with installed software was taking a back seat to contract labor. So, ProSavvy focused on refining its service and the tools that it built around procuring and managing consultants and built its network of consultants. We’ve had the view for a while that the markets for fixed project deliverable procurement and contract labor procurement were going to converge – fundamentally we’re talking about a very similar problem to manage. Companies started coming to this conclusion as well as more and more RFPs in the space were asking for a combined solution. ProSavvy found itself being asked to team up with companies that provided contingent labor software in bidding on these contracts – and they did so with a number of the firms in the contingent labor software world. Eventually it became clear that the company would benefit greatly from being a part of one of these businesses, rather than positioning itself as an add-on to their solutions (or them as an add-on to ours). Enter conversations with eWork and, several months of work and you have the merger that was just announced.  I’m pretty excited about the prospects for the combined business. Certainly there has been a lot of money that has gone into this space and a number of large VCs have made pretty decent bets on companies that compete with eWork (venture-backed companies in the space include eLance; IQ Navigator and FieldGlass). Ultimately I think eWork will benefit from competition in this market – these firms are all hungry, well run and have good product offerings. I think the addition of the ProSavvy marketplace to the eWork product offering brings something different to the mix that will help eWork stay ahead of the competition. On a personal note, while this isn’t an exit (we didn’t cash out in the deal), I’m satisfied to see the hard work that we’ve put into ProSavvy over the past years pay off in the form of a company changing event. The new business is in the capablehands of Hans Bukow,who is the eWork founder and CEO. Thisis a project that I’m going to stay close to – I’m joining the board of thecompany – and look forward to reporting to you on their future success.