The new owner of Drive Software Solutions believes it has the potential to be one of the leading technology platforms in the industry.
Its software currently facilitates the management of more than one million vehicles worldwide, but Viva Investment Partners (VIP) says the Hertfordshire-based business is perfectly placed to become more than just another fleet management offering.
Instead, it is planning to help the company transform the market through its software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform serving the wider, developing mobility market.
VIP bought the business in November for an undisclosed sum and announced Alastair Houston, the former MD of Sandicliffe Motor Contracts, as Drive Software Solution’s new CEO. But, four months later, the board and senior management team were overhauled as VIP CEO, Julie Meyer (pictured), took charge as interim-CEO with a plan to build on its fleet management experience by bringing in expertise from the technology sector.
Drive Software Solutions co-founder and former director Martin Drake, along with Houston, is among those who left the business in March, while new CEO David King (pictured) will join the business later this month and Richard Parris becomes chairman designate of a new-look board.
King, a former officer in the Royal Marines, has worked with technology companies in the UK, US and Sweden and has served on the management teams of multi-nationals, leading sales, marketing, services and product management.
“He has run data centre businesses, he has run telecoms businesses; he’s a big hitter in some respects for a business such as Drive and that’s because we don’t want Drive to be a small business,” says Meyer.
“We want it to be a very profitable business that is a global leader in its field.”
Parris is an experienced public company chairman and CEO with a special interest in cybersecurity, green technology and fintech.
As the founder of software company Intercede Group, he took the company public in 2001 and was one of the longest serving public company chairman on the London Stock Exchange prior to his exit in 2018.
He is executive chairman of Sabien Group, a green technology company listed on the AIM market, and is CEO of Salt Cybersecurity, a subsidiary of an Australian cybersecurity business. He is a special adviser and founder shareholder with VIP.
Also new to the business is Robert Gorby, head of sales and marketing, with more than 20 years’ experience in commercial management at global technology companies including AVG, SDL, Guestline and Powwownow.
Former sales and market director Simon West-Oliver, a fleet industry IT marketing expert with more than 30 years’ experience, has been named strategic partnerships director in the new senior management team.
Meyer, a former ‘Dragon’ on the BBC show Dragons’ Den, has a history of backing entrepreneurs, investing some £880 million over the past 20-plus years and selling businesses to the likes of Google.
She now believes she has the right team in place to help the business grow and transform the market. “We want to be one of the de-facto technology platforms in the industry,” explains Meyer.
“There is a really strong cultural energy in the company right now, but it’s taken us four or five months to get there and not everybody made it.
“Robert, Richard and David have all gone through private equity transactions and they are all operating at a kind of quark speed in terms of their level of ambition to transform an industry and build a great business.”
The management team has also been incentivised with a 30% share in the equity of the firm. “That’s a big options pool,” says Meyer. “Most of the time in the UK, management teams will have 10-15%. Everybody is an owner of this business.”
Expertise gained in the creation of software to manage local government fleet requirements in the 1990s led to the creation of the initial Drive fleet management software product.
Today, it has evolved to become a cloud-based, ‘full function’ leasing fleet management platform, with Arval among its customer base, supporting vehicle management requirements worldwide.
Quotations, vehicle acquisition, contract management, services and disposals are all conducted through the platform.
“What it gives them is efficiency,” explains West-Oliver. “It gives them a single tool to manage the business, with a minimum number of resources and connects to all major suppliers.”
ODO, meanwhile, is the company’s SaaS solution that allows leasing brokers and franchised dealers to manage the administration, service delivery and compliance of SME customers.
Launched in 2018, it exploits the functionality within Drive, leveraging the service supplier relationships, allowing SME fleets and their drivers to get the same level of service normally reserved for large corporates.
There is multi-level access thanks to a driver’s app, with vehicle inspections, trip data, mileage management and driver licence checking among the services available.
Targeting the SME market through broker channels, allowing them to provide a full service sell rather than just the vehicles, the first adopters are now rolling out fleets.
It had expected 50-vehicle companies to be the sweet spot for adoption, but one broker recently signed up to a 540-vehicle fleet showing the market’s potential.
Seeing the software for the first time, Gorby has been impressed.
He explains that tech businesses usually either have a great piece of software behind the system and a poor interface or something that looks amazing but has nothing new when you scratch below the surface.
“We’ve got the substance and the style, and often you’ll find a tech business has only one of those,” he says.
Development is done in-house, with Meyer describing the team as “world class” and the ODO product as “Tesla meets Fitbit”.
It’s a key reason for VIP’s investment in the business and, with a “wealth of apps” built by third-party developers to be used on Drive, Meyer believes the company can carve itself a new role as a platform business.
“We enable other players in the industry with our platform,” she explains. “The challenge will be to continue to develop the API – the application protocol interfaces – that connect all those apps to Drive.”
Another challenge will be dealing with a market reeling from the effects of a coronavirus pandemic.
However, West-Oliver believes that as people embrace a new digital era through the lockdown, Drive Software Solutions is ideally placed to help the industry adapt to a new way of working.
He says: “Some businesses will have to dramatically reshape how they go to market, how they manage their fleets and how their drivers interact.
“The (ODO) platform is about managing a changing marketplace in fleet management for both the end-user and for the supplier. It’s more than just another fleet management offering, it’s a service enabler.”
Meyer, however, accepts there will be challenges ahead. “We’ve got a big mountain to climb, but this business has the platform today that can power much more of this industry,” she says.