Matrikon - A Successful Solutions Provider Approaching $100m

Matrikon - A Successful Solutions Provider Approaching $100m - Published May 9, 2006

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Matrikon is one of the largest independent industrial automation systems integrators in North America. The company has already broken some of the barriers that limit the size of systems integrators: dependency on a couple of key founders; inability to grow beyond narrow, local markets; capital for global expansion.
 
Based in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, Matrikon has over 550 employees and revenues approaching $77M (US$ 68M) this year (Fiscal year Aug. 31 2006).
 
In April 2001, Matrikon became a publicly traded company (Toronto TSX exchange, Symbol MTK) through the reverse takeover of TigrSoft, which also provided complementary technology and services, plus cross-selling into new markets.
 
Today, Matrikon’s market cap of $156M (US$ 137M) represents a 2X ratio – very creditable for any industrial automation business. In my view, this company is now well on its way to breaking the famed 1,000 people, $100M barrier.
 
History
 
Matrikon was founded by Nizar J. Somji, now 46, who was born in Tanzania and went to England to study, and then to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada where he worked at Dow Chemical and NOVA Chemicals. Nizar Somji started Matrikon in 1988 as a consulting firm, with two areas of focus: Control and Automation (PLC & HMI programming), and Custom Interface Development.
 
While he is an excellent engineer, Nizar Somji is best described as a serial entrepreneur, more interested in developing new businesses than building them beyond the typical barriers to growth. Fortunately, he found a natural successor in Amin Rawji, who has taken the company to the next level of growth and success. Today, Nizar Somji remains involved with the company and its strategy as Chairman of the board of directors. In addition, he is involved with mergers & acquisitions and developing his many other business interests.
 
Much of Matrikon's present technology emphasis and rapid growth can be attributed to Amin Rawji, who took over as President and CEO in December 2005. In the 10+ years that he has been with Matrikon, Amin Rawji has been instrumental in leading Matrikon’s transition from a small, local systems integrator to a world class global solutions provider.
 
Coincidentally, Amin Rawji was also born in Tanzania; his friendship and collaboration with Nizar Somji (notice the similar names which originate from India) stems from common roots and backgrounds.
 
Amin Rawji (43) graduated in Computer Sciences from the University of Alberta in 1989. He worked initially for Sequiter Software (now CodeBase) before joining Matrikon in 1995. He was promoted rapidly from Manager of the Custom Interfaces Division in 1995, took over the Services business in 1998, became Exec. VP of Sales & Marketing in 2004 and President in June 2005. In Dec. 2005, he was appointed CEO. His strategic planning, business development, and software technology experience, coupled with his ability to build and sustain strong relationships with clients and partners, have helped to build Matrikon from a staff of 20 to over 550, while expanding globally, remaining profitable and becoming a publicly traded company.
 
Markets
 
Matrikon is diversified across a number of industries, including oil and gas, energy and utilities, forestry, pulp & paper, chemicals and refining, mining and mineral processing. The company’s core expertise is integrating information from various plant systems and business systems with external market data, enabling the best possible business decisions based on real-time information. Products include solutions for web-based data presentation, industrial alarming, process monitoring, planning & scheduling, analysis, optimization and decision support.
 
To expand globally, Matrikon has developed the strategy of acquiring distributors who share the Matrikon commitment to delivering value to their clients. In Sept. 2002, the company acquired Hunter Control in Australia (already the Australian distributor); in May 2004, PI Automation in Scotland was acquired. In July 2004, Best Solutions AG became Matrikon's exclusive distributor in Germany; the German company was acquired in September 2005 and operates as Matrikon Deutschland.
 
Products
 
Matrikon’s product suites solve some of the biggest challenges faced by industrial enterprises in the fast-moving modern business environment.
  • MATRIKON OPC represents real-time drivers and complementary software focused on enabling communication between plant floor hardware, software and devices based on OPC (OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) for Process Control), the industry standard for plant floor communications. Matrikon has global leadership position in this area, with 500+ drivers available.
  • Matrikon’s PROCESS SUITE represents core product technologies developed specifically for the process control industries.
  • SCADANET 2 is a vertical solution delivered via the Application Service Provider (ASP) model – leased rather than sold.
 
Growth & Success
 
A key factor in Matrikon's success is that management has always been focused on profitability, especially given that they were a private company until 2001. The company never took on any debt, and today it is still debt free, with all software development expensed. Matrikon's growth was always cash-flow positive – something that can be achieved only by staying profitable.
 
Despite tremendous growth, the company retains a very conservative and focused approach – they have never taken foolish risks, and have never over-committed the company during good times. For example: during the boom times, they stayed on course with a focused strategy. For Matrikon, the dotcom boom, and bust did not generate step-changes of growth or any subsequent adverse effects.
 
Growth Objectives
 
For FY2006 (Year-end Aug. 31, 2006) Matrikon has a revenue target of $77M. The long-term objective is approximately 15%-25% revenue growth per year; but more unusual, 30%-50% net income growth per year. Linear growth projections will take Matrikon to ~$150MM in ~3 years but they are working on further growth through technology and products that they expect will generate much higher revenues in the next 2-3 years.
 
Amin Rawji is always very accessible; he answers his own telephone, a sign of tremendous personal confidence and responsiveness.
 
I asked Amin Rawji about the barriers that may impede Matrikon’s growth. His response: "We have only one enemy: OURSELVES! I believe the market is very large for Matrikon solutions. There is competition, but that is not the limiting factor. The key for Matrikon is how to continue to re-invent/re-organize the company to handle the next growth phase."
 
I probed further: Will Matrikon be acquired by a larger company in the next few years? Amin Rawji’s spontaneous answer was spot-on: “I don’t expect that Matrikon is acquirable. At the age of 43, I expect to remain CEO for several years to execute our vision. More seriously, most large control companies are only interested in acquiring companies in the 1x revenue price. But Matrikon is already trading at 2x revenue. Given the upside potential, I expect that we will be commanding a 3x-5x premium, and no larger companies would wish to pay that price. Also Matrikon's solutions are software and services intensive, and do not help sell hardware; so most large players would not be interested in this type of acquisition.”
 
The Matrikon Culture
 
Given that founder Nizar Somji was President & CEO of Matrikon for 17 years, much of the Matrikon culture was initially established by him. Amin Rawji now keeps stimulating and building on the core of good people and their positive attitudes.
 
Prior to being appointed CEO, Amin Rawji had worked in almost every Matrikon department, and he still gets involved to help out as required. But his personal passion is marketing, with which he tries to spend as much time as possible.
 
The company has traditionally employed young, aggressive people who have an entrepreneurial spirit – the kinds of people who make things happen. They keep hiring good technical people, and give them opportunities to develop different areas of the business. Several management people are considered part of the key management team, and are committed to help Matrikon grow:
  • Jeff Gould, VP of Sales
  • Randy Kondor, VP of Marketing
  • Mike Brown, VP of Products
  • Dave Shook, CTO
  • Ian Brown, Managing Director EMEA
  • Sam Crisafulli, Managing Director Australia
  • Floyd Bjorgan, VP of Canadian Operations
  • Karim Moti, VP of US Operations
  • Sean Leonard, Director of OPC Business
 It should be noted that Matrikon's management (and board) own 40% of the company’s publicly-held stock.
 
Mission Statement
 
Matrikon’s mission statement is well developed, and continues to be reviewed and refined to keep abreast of changes in the modern business and social environments.
  • Delivering business value: Integrating the best technology with the best people to deliver total solutions that meet or exceed customers’ expectations and deliver healthy profit margins to Matrikon.
  • Innovative solutions: The Matrikon “edge” is combining innovative technology, with a strong commitment to R&D, plus company process optimization expertise, to deliver truly innovative solutions.
  • Exceptional people: Employing, developing, and empowering the best people in the industry. Building on their knowledge, their dedication, and their energy.
  • Customer satisfaction: Turning service into satisfaction to build strong, long-term partnerships.
  • Protecting assets: Safeguarding the health and safety of employees, customers and stakeholders; protecting the environment; improving communities where the company’s people live and work.
Matrikon has already emerged well beyond the limited scope of a local, specialized systems integrator. The company is growing steadily to become a significant, global software and solutions provider.
 
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 Jim Pinto is an industry analyst and commentator, writer, technology futurist, angel investor. You can email him at: [email protected]. Or review his prognostications and predictions on his website: http://www.jimpinto.com/ . Review the contents of his new book “Pinto’s Points – How to Win in the Automation Business” at: http://jimpinto.com/writings/points.html