On Acquisitions

America’s FM:Systems Acquires SA’s Visitor Management Startup WizzPass

By  |  June 23, 2021

Ever since the pandemic, office culture has assumed a different dimension. Companies are now on the lookout for ways to improve their workplace management systems and streamline the procedures involved. The office needs to be a better place to work, worldwide.

WizzPass—a startup out of South Africa—specializes in the improvement of the often manual and insecure processes/systems associated with traditional facility visitor management. Today, the Techstars Cape Town alumnus has been acquired internationally.

FM: Systems, a Raleigh-based leading provider of digital workplace solutions worldwide, bought WizzPass for an undisclosed sum.

In early 2021, a Verdantix research revealed that 24 percent of companies across the planet have intentions to invest in visitor management systems. The report also predicts that the demand for such solutions would increase by no less than 13 percent per year until the year 2025. The reason? It’s mostly about bettering workplace safety and boosting employee productivity—more importantly in the coronavirus era.

Based in Joburg, the WizzPass Visitor Management System (VMS) revolutionizes the experience, security, convenience and safety of visitors to offices and other buildings, creating improved communications and interactions between businesses and their visitors—whether they are contractors, suppliers, employees or others.

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The startup says it serves blue-chip companies in more than 300 locations across 4 continents, and has processed over 10 million secure events.

WizzPass is one of the 10 early-stage firms that were part of the fifth cohort of the Grindstone Accelerator Program—a jointly owned initiative of South Africa-focused VC firm Knife Capital, and Thinkroom Consulting. Grindstone assists high-growth innovation-driven small businesses to become sustainable and fundable through a one-year program.

Bradley Hornby, Ulrich Stark and Tyron Fouche founded WizzPass in 2015, a year after which it was quietly backed by the Barclays Seeker Fund—under the auspices of Cape Town’s Barclays Accelerator. Now, however, Tyron is no longer with the company.

Left to right: Bradley Hornby and Ulrich Stark
Courtesy: WizzPass

WizzPass also provides a variety of visitor management, parcel management, COVID-19 screening and workspace reservation solutions for corporate offices, industrial and manufacturing facilities, and multi-tenant office buildings and office parks.

In late 2016 when the startup raised its first external funding, it was predominantly focused on corporate parking solutions. In 2019, WizzPass joined Grindstone, where it was one of the top-performing businesses in its cohort.

Keet van Zyl, Partner and Co-founder at Knife Capital, tells WeeTracker that WizzPass was one of the first companies to provide efficient COVID-19 screening solutions for both staff and visitors in one complete system. This increased their client base exponentially over 2020, and potential partners and acquirers started showing inbound interest.

“Earlier this year, we decided to take the business to market and Knife Capital has been leading the process alongside the founders. FM:Systems is an excellent fit for WizzPass—both from a business culture and ethics perspective but also their complimentary product suite in the digital workplace, strengthening the client offering. We could not be happier about the outcome for Ulrich, Brad and team! And it is another significant data point for the momentum in the local startup ecosystem,” he explains.

FM:Systems provides a strategic, end-to-end solution suite that transforms the digital workplace into a self-sustaining ecosystem and establishes a rich foundation of workplace data that informs decisions as the organization grows and times change. No doubt, WizPass will leverage on the American firm’s interest to extend its reach.

“We already provide our solution to other African countries and internationally, and this acquisition will allow us to now further expand the WizzPass system and the FM:Systems suite of products to many more countries within Africa and globally,” Ulrich informs WeeTracker.

“In terms of office culture, what we have seen is that South Africa is very similar to other countries globally. We face the same challenges and opportunities of providing a “hybrid” work environment and how to adapt to that. Fortunately, FM:Systems is perfectly positioned to tailor to all these current and future needs of employees—it is a complete offering for the work environments of the future,” he added.

Grindstone focuses on scalability, market access and funding readiness for its cohort companies. According to Keet, this positions the businesses well for exits, some high-profile of which are from radar technology company iKubu and Garmin (in 2015) to payment processor Payfast (sold to DPO in 2019) And now, WizzPass to FM:Systems. Numerous Grindstone-backed firms have also raised growth funding from Knife Capital and other funders over the years.

Interestingly, WizzPass isn’t the only South African tech startup to get acquired today. Giraffe, a South African mobile employment platform has been completely bought by the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator. 

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