Recruiting Software Giant Bullhorn Sold to Equity Firm

Bullhorn, the software company that powers much of the staffing and SMB recruiting market, has been acquired by Vista Equity Partners. The Boston-based tech firm announced the deal Thursday morning (June 14).

The financial terms were not made public; however, sources, including TechCrunch, said the sales price was in the “low nine-figures.” That would be a near tripling of the company’s valuation since 2008 when it got a $26 million VC fund investment.

“It’s a big day here,” CEO and founder Art Papas said. “The employees are really pumped up.” There are two reasons for the excitement, Papas said. Because of stock options, many employees will see a financial windfall, but as important, he added, is that Bullhorn will remain independent and growing.

“We are continuing to staff up”

“I work with some incredible people. And with this acquisition, no one is leaving. Just the contrary, we’ll be growing.”

In the last several months, Bullhorn has added 40 employees and now has 201. “We are continuing to staff up,” he said, with plans to grow geographically. Three years ago, in the midst of the worst of the recession, Bullhorn opened an office in the United Kingdom, which, Papas said, “turned out to be one of the best things we’ve done. We’re going to continue to expand.”

The company will also expand its product development, especially in areas that complement its core, ATS service, including CRM, as well as continued enhancement of its mobile provisioning. Bullhorn Reach, the company’s successful freemium social media service, will also see more development.

Company focused on Saas-based products

Declining to get into details, Papas said Bullhorn would also be looking at acquisitions, especially companies with products geared to the third-party-recruiting market.

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Where companies like Taleo (acquired by Oracle), SuccessFactors (acquired by SAP), and the public and still independent Kenexa, among others, have long focused on the enterprise and corporate markets, Bullhorn has concentrated on search firms, smaller recruiting agencies, and independent recruiters.

From its founding in 1999, the company’s products have been SaaS based, an approach that meant recruiters could begin using the software almost immediately, without the need for in-house or other technical help. SaaS, also often referred to as cloud computing, has become the hot trend now, driving HR technology companies to develop a cloud capability. That’s one of the major drivers of the recent string of acquisitions and why SAP paid a substantial premium to the all-SaaS SuccessFactors.

Papas attributed Bullhorn’s success — 40 percent revenue growth and 400 new clients last year — to its SaaS provisioning. SaaS, he says, is something of an equalizer. “If I’m a small business, I can get the same service as Kelly.”

Kelly, and Randstad, one of the largest staffing firms in the world, are both Bullhorn customers. In all, the company reports it has some 12,000 clients with over 100,000 staffing and recruiting professionals across 126 countries using the system. The company has made the Deloitte Technology Fast 500, the Inc. 5000, and the Boston Business Journal Pacesetters.

John Zappe is the editor of and a contributing editor of John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.


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