One of Whistler’s few high tech companies, long held up as an example of the resort’s diversifying economy, has been sold to an American business.
Award-winning Paradata Systems has been bought by California based Payment Processing Incorporated. The deal closed on Jan. 6. Financial details were not released.
For Paradata’s Shannon Byrne, who founded the Whistler-based company, the deal is the culmination of a decade of hard work.
"We’ve always built it to be sold or to be taken public," she said. "So for me that was the key and the core purpose of why we existed and so we were always prepared for this."
Of the 25 employees she had before the sale, seven lost their jobs due to overlaps with PPI.
But one of the best things about the deal, she said, is that 70 per cent of her team will remain intact and in the Whistler or Vancouver offices. And that’s "a beautiful thing."
"That was pretty much a key to it for myself – it had to work for the people," said Byrne.
The CEO of PPI, Chuck Smith, is a surfer she added. He lives in San Diego to follow his passion even though the company’s head office is in Newark, outside of San Francisco.
"He fully understands our passion for skiing," said Byrne.
The acquisition gives PPI a gateway to provide services to Canadian businesses. Paradata technology allows PPI to accelerate its development plans and provide software developers with a single payment gateway.
For years Paradata has been held up in the community as an example of a business that helps diversify Whistler’s economy. As a software development company Paradata is not connected to the tourism industry and isn’t affected by the ebb and flow of visitors to the resort. That in some respects is a good thing, said Mike Wintemute, the new chair of the board of the Whistler Chamber of Commerce.
"When you’ve got other businesses like that which are perhaps less affected directly by the numbers of visitors coming to the resort then obviously their cash flow stays stronger and those employees are able to spend money, and although we’re only talking about a small number, it’s still an important mix," he said.
When asked if the acquisition is a sign that Whistler can’t diversify its economy, Byrne said no.
"I think it should be a sign that the answer is we can (diversify) and that these tech companies that do come to town, whether they’re Microsoft or Paradata, are still going to run the course of the industry cycle but still remain established here in Whistler," she said. "That’s a key piece. We’re still here intact. We’re even stronger now because we have a bigger parent. It allows us to do other things.
"At the end of the day it’s all about having people who can contribute to the community, whether they’re owned by a U.S. company or not we’re still Canadians and we still believe in the community and we’ll still contribute as we always have. Nothing changes."
Byrne thinks it might be time now for Whistler to consider allowing more businesses like hers to thrive because they aren’t so sensitive to global or regional changes beyond the resort’s control.
"My gut says it’s a road we should have headed down a while ago," said Byrne. "And I’ve never spoken strongly about it but when I look at where we are right now as a resort and a community, it might be a little easier to take some of the things (that have been affecting the resort economy)."