How a Strong Data Culture Underpinned a Successful Acquisition between CakeHR and Sage

Kaspars Upmanis, VP Category Leader, HR & Payroll

Sage is trusted by millions of customers worldwide to deliver the best cloud technology and support with our partners to manage finances, operations, and people.

Newcastle upon Tyne, UK

Computer software

13,000+ employees

Keeping your pace of growth while going through an acquisition is difficult. For Kaspars Upmanis, founder of CakeHR and now VP Category Leader at Sage, having a clear understanding of what moves the business forward was the essential piece that allowed his team to deliver sustained growth.

What is Sage HR?

Sage HR is a powerful suite of tools that allows you to manage your workforce better. It includes solutions for organizing your leave policy, timesheets, shift scheduling, and more. Founded in 2013, the company was originally called CakeHR.

Sage HR product overview

Kaspars’ first enterprise was an agency creating websites for customers in the UK. Upmanis was running the business between two offices: one in Riga, Latvia and another in the UK. Between them, he needed a tool to manage employee leave, timesheets, and all aspects of HR management.

Like so many other founders, Kaspars built his first product by solving his own pain. He noticed almost right away that it would be easy to re-package what they created for internal use as a product and sell it as subscription-based software.

That’s how CakeHR came to be.

For a while, the company was growing organically, while the team still focused on the agency. About four years ago, Kaspars decided to focus his attention 100% on growing CakeHR.

Acquisition by Sage

In 2019, CakeHR joined Sage and re-branded itself Sage HR. 

At the time, the company employed about ten people. Since they had little to no technical debt, the process of joining the larger company and embedding their product into the rest of the offering was seamless.

Kaspars believes the decision to join forces with Sage is beneficial for both sides. It has given him the opportunity to scale the team and double down on building the best product. At the same time, his team is helping the larger organization bring its product line to the cloud.

We asked Kaspars to tell us the story of how ChartMogul helps his team grow SageHR pre- and post-acquisition.

The Challenge: Early growth pains

Kaspars is one of the most loyal ChartMogul customers — his team has been using the platform for over six years.

He initially picked ChartMogul because he was looking for an easy way to integrate Recurly to track their core metrics.

At the time, the team was tracking MRR growth and cash flow. Kaspars explains that the latter was vital for them as a fully bootstrapped company that was adding many subscribers on annual plans. 

This made it essential for them to track and forecast cash in the bank in order to make sure they were growing sustainably.

The Solution: ChartMogul provides essential transparency

Kaspars says he’s delighted with the insight he gets from ChartMogul.

The value we get from ChartMogul is a multiple of the price we pay for it, so we never have to question it.

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Providing this kind of insight and transparency into what’s happening in the business has also allowed Kaspars to prepare his company to join forces with Sage.

Since becoming Sage HR, they have switched from tracking cash flow to ARR because the team can now rely on the support of the much larger parent organization and focus on growing the business and improving the product.

A similar shift has also occurred in their strategy after the acquisition. The primary focus today is to go and dominate a (geographic) market, with the UK being their most important area.

Kaspars told us that the team is currently using ChartMogul’s Maps functionality daily.

ChartMogul maps feature data culture

This allows them to track how well they are performing against their chosen strategy and what kind of progress they’re making in each region where they are fighting for dominance.

This allows the team to track key metrics (such as churn, ARPU, etc.) by region, thus gaining a much better understanding of what it takes to succeed in each market.

Markets are different. In some countries, the bulk of our customers are big companies, which have larger ARPUs. But in some of our newer markets, the customer base consists primarily of smaller businesses.

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ChartMogul gives them a competitive advantage because it allows them to explore specific opportunities in new, untapped markets.

Comparing AEs inside ChartMogul

SageHR’s sales teams are another part of the company that uses ChartMogul. All customers are assigned a custom attribute with the sales rep who worked the deal. That helps them measure the long-term impact of their sales team.

The Result: Ensuring a successful transition as part of Sage

Kaspars is positive about his decision to become part of the Sage organization.

He says it has given his team a set of clear goals to focus on and the stability to achieve these without having to sacrifice speed to preserve their runway.

However, the acquisition creates benefits for both parties.

I asked Kaspars if Sage plans to switch to a subscription model as a whole. His answer didn’t surprise us:

Everyone wants to be in SaaS today. The deal came at the right time, both for our team and for Sage.

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And it’s not just about the product. Having a clear understanding of the business model has allowed Kaspars to prepare his company to join forces with Sage and make a success of it.