US-based JMI Equity buys out Safe Software co-founder in strategic investment

Safe Software co-founders Don Murray and Dale Lutz.
30-year-old BC firm hopes to hit $250 million in annual revenue in five years.

Surrey, BC-based Safe Software has secured a strategic investment from American growth-stage investor JMI Equity.

JMI, which had been tracking Safe for over a decade, has acquired a minority stake in the 30-year-old data-integration software company. The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“I want to thank Dale for an amazing 30 years. It was a blast.

-Don Murray, Safe

In tandem with this news, Safe co-founder Dale Lutz is stepping down from his position as co-CEO and taking on a new part-time role. Safe co-founder Don Murray will continue to lead the business as CEO, and the rest of the firm’s leadership team will remain intact. Safe said that it anticipates no updates to its day-to-day operations as part of this change.

As first reported by The Globe and Mail and since confirmed by BetaKit, Murray and JMI have purchased Lutz’s 50-percent stake in Safe as part of the deal, which marks Safe’s first outside investment and leaves Murray as the company’s majority shareholder. The Globe estimates the value of Lutz’s stake was more than $200 million USD.

“I want to thank Dale for an amazing 30 years,” Murray wrote in a LinkedIn post announcing the news. “It was a blast. I also want to welcome our new partner Brian Hersman and JMI Equity. With them as partners, we look forward to growing even faster.”

A Safe spokesperson told BetaKit that Lutz “wanted the freedom to spend more time with family,” noting that “watching his son go through a leukemia diagnosis to recovery some years ago left a big impact” on him. Lutz also intends to focus more of his time on philanthropy going forward.

In a statement, JMI general partner Brian Hersman—who is taking a seat on the company’s board as part of the deal—called Safe “a true industry success story,” describing its solution for enterprise data needs as “groundbreaking and unique.”

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Safe was founded in 1993 by Murray and Lutz, two former software engineers at Canadian space tech manufacturer Macdonald, Dettwiler and Associates (now known as MDA). While working on a geospatial forestry data-sharing project in BC, the pair encountered difficulty exchanging data across different systems and organizations and set out to address the issue.

Lutz and Murray developed a software platform that helps people, organizations, and entire enterprises share different types of information, including spatial data. Today, the privately held company has 244 employees and provides a range of data solutions to more than 25,000 customers and over 200,000 users across 121 countries.

Profitable since its inception, Safe generated more than $80 million CAD in revenue last year and aims to reach $250 million in annual revenue over the next five years.

Baltimore, Maryland-based JMI is a software-focused growth equity firm that has backed a number of big-name Canadian tech companies, including Benevity, Clio, Jane Software, PointClickCare, and Vena Solutions.

Feature image courtesy Safe Software.

Josh Scott

Josh Scott

Josh Scott is a BetaKit reporter focused on telling in-depth Canadian tech stories and breaking news. His coverage is more complete than his moustache.

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