May 5, 2012

Charleston Software Firm Sold for $40 million

John McDermott & David Slade  /  Post and Courier

The $40 million acquisition of a Charleston software firm by a Canadian corporation is the latest sign that the area's high-tech economy is maturing, local development officials said Friday.

Toronto-based Davis + Henderson Corp. announced the all-cash acquisition of Avista Solutions Inc. late Thursday. Both companies create real-estate-related software solutions, involving the mortgage application process.

"What's extremely positive is that we are seeing an investment-grade company acquiring a local company that will continue to operate in our community," said Ernest Andrade, executive director of Charleston Digital Corridor, which works to attract such companies to the area. "Charleston is definitely on the radar."

Andrade said Avista Solutions, like other successful companies in the area, temporarily used space in the city-funded Flagship business incubator offices on East Bay Street. Avista Solutions was founded in Columbia in 2001 and relocated to Charleston less than two years ago.

Gerrard Schmid, CEO of Davis + Henderson, called Avista an innovative, fast-growing business with proven capabilities.

"We are pleased that Avista's team, including Mark Phlieger, its founder and CEO, are joining D+H to drive future growth." Schmid said in a statement.

Avista and its employees will remain in Charleston, a spokeswoman for D+H confirmed. Avista is known for its web-based mortgage origination software, tailored for regional and community banks, and credit unions."We kind of level the playing field," Phlieger said in a previous interview with The Post and Courier, "so all the community-based banks can get the kind of technology the big guys get."

Bill Mahoney, CEO of the S.C. Research Authority, said Avista's acquisition is "a great example of how the knowledge economy in South Carolina is getting recognized for producing significant value, particularly in the Charleston area."

He said the city's Flagship and SCRA's SC Launch program, which invests in high-tech startups but was not involved with Avista, have played productive roles in growing the knowledge economy.

"You combine that kind of support with the amenities the area has to offer, and I think you're going to see more and more of this sort of thing," Mahoney said. "It really is a place where more and more entrepreneurs want to come and establish a business."

Avista's office is in downtown Charleston at 100 Calhoun St., where the company moved from Daniel Island in August. The company has about 40 employees and was recently hiring. Phlieger, of Isle of Palms, in August said the company could grow near-term to as many as 60 employees.

Repeated attempts to reach Phlieger on Friday were unsuccessful, and calls were directed to an out-of-state public relations firm. "Speaking on behalf of our team at Avista, I am excited by the prospects of taking our business to the next level." Phlieger said in a statement issued by Davis + Henderson.