In a move to become the leading provider of business intelligence, financial and operational analytics for larger law firms, BigHand has acquired Iridium Technology, creating a combined organization with more than 3,600 customers worldwide — including some 81% of the Am Law 200 — and more than 350 employees.
With BigHand already a leading provider of operational and financial products for law firms, and Iridium a major provider of business intelligence and financial analytics products, the two companies came into the deal with complementary missions and overlapping sets of customers, making them well suited to join forces.
Neither company disclosed details of the transaction. The deal was an exit for Iridium backer Polaris Growth Fund, an affiliate fund of the Boston-based private investment firm Polaris Partners.
Sam Toulson, BigHand chief executive officer, said that the acquisition is consistent with BigHand’s longstanding desire to offer its clients the best solutions and support that work for them.
“There has to be an added value to our customers and that’s what makes this acquisition very exciting,” Toulson said. “The combined organization now gives our clients the opportunity to access a vast amount of data within their firms that will enable them to move from the practice of law to the business of law.”
Eric Wangler, president, North America, for BigHand, said he sees this as a great expansion for the business. “We always said that in an M&A, it was really critical that we chose the right people to partner with. The cultural fit, the focus on people, the focus on customers, really made this a great combination, and we view this as an opportunity to help our firms manage both their financial and their operational data.”
Four Product Lines
BigHand, founded in 1995, started as a company that focused on digital dictation and voice productivity. Over the years, it has expanded to offer a range of products for the legal sector, including products for workflow and resource management, document creation and metadata management, business intelligence, pricing, and pitching.
With the acquisition of Iridium, BigHand adds four well-established product lines: Iridium BI, for business intelligence and financial analytics; Intellistat, for financial reporting, matter planning and pricing, and more; Steere, a suite of financial reporting and analysis products; and SmartTime, for timekeeping and compliance with billing guidelines.
Some of those products had been acquired by Iridium two years ago, when it merged with Data Fusion Technologies to create what was then described as the single-largest provider of business intelligence technology for law firms.
“For our financial product set, BigHand and Iridium together now offer a complete range of BI, profitability financial management, time recording, matter pricing and analytics solutions to the legal industry,” said Rob Stote, managing director of profitability at BigHand, who said there would be no changes to the Iridium products. “The two teams working together will ensure law firms get enhanced access to extensive domain expertise and feature-rich products.”
Iridium Staff Stays On
All 103 Iridium employees are joining BigHand effective today. Tom Jones, who founded Iridium in 2009 and was its CEO, becomes managing director for the Iridium product line, reporting directly to Toulson. The full Iridium group will continue to report to Jones.
Also staying on with BigHand is Rod Wittenberg, who as chief revenue officer and formerly vice president of sales at Iridium has helped drive the company’s sales and revenue in recent years.
Jones said his focus during this transition will be on Iridium’s employees and customers.
“Number one is making sure that the employees are comfortable and secure and committed to the long-term,” Jones said. “Number two is the same message for the clients. All of our products have a large and extremely loyal client base, with high client satisfaction and retention. We want to make sure that they’re feeling comfortable and that they’re going to be taken care of in the short, medium and long term.”
New Avenues of Growth
Wangler said this deal provides BigHand with new avenues of growth both within its existing customer base and beyond that base, including internationally.
BigHand has three main areas of focus in its product line-up, he said: financial productivity, document productivity, and people and business productivity.
“The opportunity, as we see it, is to get further and deeper into the firms we already serve with these broad capabilities,” Wangler said. “In the case of Iridium, historically, and BigHand, we have a great reputation with our clients, we take care of them. The technology that we sell them does what it says on the box — it solves a real problem for them. If we treat them well, they want to do additional business with us.”
For customers of both companies, Wangler said, the acquisition only strengthens that proposition. “The domain expertise is enormous. I think this is a situation where two plus two becomes five.”
Jones added: “For the Iridium clients, their primary concerns would be, number one, do the products go forward and do I still get to work with those people who I love working with? Number two, Iridium has always been a very stable and profitable company, so they’re looking to see that, basically, we’ve got a landing spot as far as out as people can see and it all just keeps going.”
“We’ve got some amazing people who understand how the financial end of a law firm works, how the operational end of a law firm works, and what data is critical, and the products will evolve as that group gets deeper into these firms,” Wangler said. “To me, it’s really exciting, it just builds a massive brain trust that I don’t think can be matched in the industry, to be honest.”