St. John’s-based Celtx, which makes scriptwriting and project management software for the film and video game industries, has been acquired by media holding company Backlight in a buyout funded by growth equity firm PSG.
The deal is part of a quintet of acquisitions that mark Backlight’s first investments. Based in the Boston area, Backlight said in a press release it is backed by US$200 million (C$253 million) in funding from PSG, but did not specify how much it was spending on each of the five companies.
Founded in 2000, Celtx makes software for writers and creatives working on scripted media, including film and television, advertising, and most recently, video games. Chief Executive Mark Kennedy said in an interview that the sale to Backlight was facilitated by strong internal metrics from Celtx, including more than 40 percent annual revenue growth for five years running.
“Having PSG … and their expertise and experience was really compelling proposition to us,” he said. “Here was a group of people that were bringing that gravitas to the problem (of becoming the dominant player in the vertical).”
Kennedy described the sale as being aimed at helping Celtx scale faster, with the new owners offering both capital and depth of expertise in the entertainment industry.
The deal is only now being announced, but has been finalized for several months, with Celtx and PSG signing a letter of intent in Jan. 2021 and closing the sale in June of that year.
“Because our metrics were pretty strong, we thought that we might go to market and see if there was appetite for investment,” said Kennedy of Celtx’s plans in the early days of the pandemic. “But next thing, PSG were in on us, and it kind of took on a life of its own.”
All of Celtx’s 68 staff are keeping their jobs, including Kennedy and COO Matt Dove. Eventually, having five entertainment-industry companies under the Backlight umbrella could produce “obvious integration opportunities,” Kennedy said. But his and Backlight’s first priority is to continue smooth operations at Celtx.
The company’s software, Celtx Pro, is sold under a SaaS model. It allows users to collaborate on scripts and entertainment production files in real time without the need for desktop applications. It also includes features for storyboarding, budgeting and “shot-planning,” among other tasks.
“There was a need in the marketplace for an end-to-end solution,” said Kennedy.
“There were lots of great SaaS technology companies catering to the media creation space. But everyone had their own niche, and there was this opportunity to provide more of a seamless solution for customers.”
Celtx has customers in 162 countries, with 60 percent in North America, 10 to 12 percent in Europe, 10 percent in Latin America and South America and the rest spread throughout the world. The enterprise clients the company lists on its website include AT&T, American Eagle Outfitters and Lockheed Martin.
PSG, meanwhile, has six offices in cities ranging from Boston to Tel Aviv and has backed 95 companies and 375 acquisitions. It formed Backlight to invest in video production and distribution plays, and the five acquisitions announced this week were its first.
The Celtx sale is the latest in a string of exits for two of its major shareholders: Halifax-based Build Ventures and St. John’s-based Killick Capital.
Build Ventures has now booked three exits in 16 months. In January 2021, SaaS company Manifold was bought by Boston cybersecurity company Snyk. And a month later, McCain Foods bought out Build and other investors in Moncton-based Fiddlehead Technology, which makes predictive modelling software for food companies.
And Killick Capital — the family office of the Dobbin family, helmed by Mark Dobbin — is now on its second exit in about a year, after St. John’s educational software-maker Zorbit’s Math was bought by Pittsburgh’s Carnegie Learning last April.
Celtx is hiring for two roles: a lifecycle marketing manager with at least two years of experience and an account executive with experience in the educational sector. Celtx’s clients include several school districts.
The account executive job is not listed on Celtx’s website, but the lifecycle marketing manager posting can be found here.