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Artifax Case Study

  • Headquarters: Surrey, United Kingdom
  • Acquisition Date: January, 2019
  • Vertical Market: Venue & Event Management
  • www.artifax.net

Background

It was 1986. Nina Kaye, a talent agent for classical musicians, and Timothy Nathan, a professional airline pilot and computer hobbyist, were attending a concert. But the two never made it to the second half. Instead, the couple found themselves sitting outside the concert hall deep in discussion. A discussion about how a database computer program could replace the typewriters and carbon paper that artist’s managers used to organize things like venue and artist contracts, travel schedules, and more. And that’s when the idea of Artifax was born.

To bring the idea to life, Timothy began traveling his regular flight schedule with what was then called a “luggable,” a type of portable computer. When the pilot would reach his final destination, he’d spend evenings in his hotel room programming. Soon, what started as a solution for Nina’s office quickly grew in functionality and gained traction with agents across Europe and the World. The efficiency and insights – like how much artists were earning, and how much venues were booking – made Artifax something of an international standard.

With nearly 100 agencies using Artifax, the word spread, and venues became interested in adopting the platform, as well. By 1993, Timothy and Nina began to focus full-time on furthering the development and adoption of Artifax. And over the next decades, prestigious concert halls from London to New York City, international festivals, galleries, royal palaces and cathedrals were among Artifax’s nearly 500 customers.

I think we got as far as we could on our own. We made some very sensible decisions, but it was kind of a lonely position to be in. We had nobody to bounce ideas off about anything from pricing to the direction of the software. We were really looking for support, a bit of financial support but also business support, to help us grow.

Sarah Verge, Former Managing Director, Artifax

The Decision to Sell

After 25 years at the helm, Timothy and Nina started to think about the future. They weren’t quite ready to sell the business but wished to do so eventually. In 2011, perhaps as a stroke of fate, Sarah Verge was looking for a new career. Sarah joined Artifax as Finance Director and remembers talking in her initial interview about helping groom the business for sale. One year later, Sarah found herself in the role of Managing Director and, along with Timothy and Nina, began seriously considering options.

While Timothy received several emails each month from investors, it was Sarah who first became intrigued with Volaris. During her time with a previous employer, Sarah had experienced firsthand what it was like to be acquired by a firm that showed little interest in nurturing the business for the long term. She didn’t want to see that happen to Artifax. For Sarah, the Volaris philosophy of buying a company, keeping it forever, and nurturing it through the tough and good times was very appealing.    

Sarah really appreciated the values held by the company’s founders, sharing that “while they wanted to get a decent return on what they put into Artifax, they cared very deeply for the people who worked for the company and also their clients, many of whom were personal friends. It was important that all the good things about Artifax would carry on while getting the support to grow and maximize its potential.” She added, “Volaris seemed like the right fit, reliable, stable, and likely to give us the best results in the long-term.”

I think the brand has been cherished and looked after and all the good things have been retained. That was really important. I still think we were absolutely right in choosing Volaris to acquire Artifax. I wouldn’t do anything different.

Sarah Verge, Former Managing Director, Artifax

Post-Acquisition Success

Post-acquisition, the first orders of business were adopting the new tools and technology that were available to Artifax as part of Volaris Group and transitioning financial reporting requirements to meet the needs of Volaris Group’s parent company, publicly traded Constellation Software Inc. Other than that, the team says, “It was business as usual.” Artifax employees and customers all seemed pleased with the company’s new home.

Then, after helping the team through the initial transition, Sarah decided it was time for someone else to lead the business through its next stage of growth. That’s when Andy Wheeler, longtime Artifax employee and Executive Director of Development took on the role of Managing Director.

For Andy, the opportunity to lead a business with the support of the Volaris Group network was exciting. He noted, “Often it’s said that when you’re in certain roles in companies, it can be quite lonely, particularly the higher you get. In Volaris, you don’t have that.” The Volaris Group network, additional support from Volaris HR and finance leaders, and the ability to benchmark Artifax’s performance against other software companies have all proven valuable to Andy in his new role.

Less than a year after Andy became Managing Director, he was faced with the unprecedented challenge of leading Artifax through a global pandemic, one that’s significantly impacted its customer base. Yet somehow, through it all, Andy remains positive and Artifax continues to grow. “As a new leader, you want to take the business through a change,” said Andy. “This accelerates that change. It gets everyone thinking carefully about what they’re doing, and how we can improve our business and continue to support our customers.”

One change Andy has taken a personal interest in is making sure everyone at Artifax understands the benefits of joining Volaris Group. He says, “In a small- to mid-size business there’s a ceiling, people know that. At Volaris Group the growth opportunities are there.” Andy acknowledged that the deeper you get within the organization, the less connected the employees can feel to the opportunities and network available to them. He’s working to strengthen the connection, by adopting some new best practices for talent development and helping the staff see the wider network and opportunities.

While Artifax and its employees continue to thrive, founders Timothy and Nina are experiencing new successes of their own. Together they founded “Refugees at Home,” a charity that helps connect those with a spare room in their house to refugees and asylum seekers in need of somewhere to stay. They also work with other charities aimed at helping refugees, as well as those that make music accessible to young people. Timothy continues to serve as a magistrate, flies the friendly skies as a flying instructor, and the two welcomed a new puppy to their home in 2020.