Workplace visitor management software developer SwipedOn has been sold to Britain's Smartspace Software PLC for $11 million, with the Tauranga company set to keep staff and operations in New Zealand.

Founded in 2013 by Hadleigh Ford, SwipedOn is an internet-based business that started off on Apple's App Store selling a digital replacement for corporate visitor books, running on iPads.

A year after SwipedOn raised $1 million through Tauranga's Enterprise Angels, Quayside Holdings, the New Zealand Venture Investment Fund and Stephen Tindall, it has now been sold for eleven times the amount chipped in.

Asked if it he and the SwipedOn team had considered holding on to the company longer for a higher sales price, Ford said:

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"You never know what's round the corner, but from the perspective of staff and the Tauranga ecosystem, we believe the time was right to exit."

Both Ford and SwipedOn's chairman Ben Kepes, a well-known name in the country's tech startup scene, both believe that earlier, more frequent moderate exits are better overall, rather than fewer ones in the hundreds of millions or billion dollars.

The Kiwi firm's annual recurring revenue - a favoured measure among software-as-a-service companies - was $1.6m in August, up from $846,000 in September 2017. It reported a loss of $450,000 in the year ended March 31 on revenue of $1m.

The company has 20 staff and said it has 2300 customers in 39 countries, with large corporations such as Fujitsu, Estee Lauder, Mitsubishi and Hugo Boss using its software.

In March this year, SwipedOn was awarded a Callaghan Innovation Growth Grant. This enables the companies to claim a fifth of their research and development expenditure, up to $15 million over a three-year period.

Ford said that while SwipedOn has yet to claim against the Callaghan Innovation grant, he expects it to be unaffected by the sale.

"My understanding is that if we maintain the R&D in the country, the grant will remain in place," Ford said.

He added that the potential for R&D expenditure rebates was attractive to the British buyer.

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Smartspace management have visited Tauranga and very much liked what they saw of the location, Ford said.

As part of the deal, the British company will be able to send employees on secondment to Tauranga, as a hiring and staff retention incentive.

Ford and the rest of the SwipedOn management team will stay on after the sale of the company, and are currently seeking larger office to lease in Tauranga.

SwipedOn is also looking to hire nine more staff for software development and sales support, Ford said.

SmartSpace will pay $8.6m in cash. SwipedOn chief executive Hadleigh Ford, head of product Ben Scott, CTO Matt Cooney and marketing head Paul Hansen will receive shares in SmartSpace, which has applied to the London Stock Exchange to list on the AIM market for small, growth-focused companies.

- Additional reporting BusinessDesk