Auckland-based software company Authentic, which trades as My Tours, has been sold to New York-based rival OnCell.

The value of the deal was not disclosed, but the Herald understands it runs into the single-digit millions. It also sees Authentic founder Glen Barnes hold a stake in OnCell, though an NDA prevents him from revealing its size.

My Tours says its software can "turn your city walks, museum tours and audio guides into mobile applications".

Barnes says it has 250 customers around the world, many of them museums.

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Customers pay setup costs plus up to $6000 a year in annual fees.

OnCell says its own technology - which is similar to My Tours - has been used for around 6000 projects, around half of them in the US.

Barnes will become OnCell's chief product officer as part of the deal.

"I'm not required to stay on but am really passionate about the culture and heritage sector," he said.

On social media, Barnes gave a nod to My Tours' first customer, wellingtonnz.com, which is still with the company 10 years on.

"Yes, another NZ tech company gone offshore"

And after a round of thank yous, he added - perhaps in a bid to pre-empt criticism, he added "And yes, another NZ tech company gone offshore."

He later elaborated to the Herald, "You can sit on the sideline and make all the comments you like, but until you get in that situation personally, you can't say what you'd do. Everyone's got to make their own decision."

In Authentic's case, joining forces with OnCell means Barnes' company will have a bigger team behind it, and the ability to take advantage of more global opportunities.

But he's also negotiated things so he and his staff will remain in Auckland, and he'll continue to contract to local software developers.

Barnes was bracing for a burn from commentator and investor Ben Kepes, but in the final event the mercurial Cantabrian saw the deal as a plus.

"It's great to see another successful conclusion for a Kiwi startup," Kepes told the Herald.

"Barnes was an early character in the New Zealand tech ecosystem and has spent years beavering away at My Tours. The fact is that, beyond a certain scale and outside of some notable exceptions, scaling a Kiwi tech business is incredibly hard. Thus an exit is often the right thing for a founder to aim for."

Examples of apps created by My Tours' customers. Image / Supplied.
Examples of apps created by My Tours' customers. Image / Supplied.

Bootstrapped all the way

Barnes said he'll look to pay it forward and reinvest some of his sale money in the local ecosystem. But don't bombard him with your pitches just yet. He says for the immediate future he'll be knuckling down and concentrating on making his new role work.

My Tours was founded in 2009. Barnes said up until the OnCell deal, it had been bootstrapped up all the way. (Taxpayer-funded multi-million Callaghan Growth Grants often clouded the picture when an NZ tech is sold offshore. In My Tours' case, it has only had a Callaghan Project Grant - a smaller support programme that typically runs to a few thousand dollars; in My Tours' case it was one $5000 grant.)

Last year, My Tours bought two competitors, the US-based STQRY, which numbered the Walt Disney Family Museum and several Smithsonian properties among its clients, and Dutch outfit 7scenes, whose customers included Amnesty International.

UFB poster child

Along the way, Barnes became something of a poster boy for the ultrafast broadband, featuring in a campaign by government agency Crown Fibre Holdings (now Crown Infrastructure Partners).

While a lot of the focus was on faster broadband allowing smoother Netflix, early fibre adopter Barnes pointed out it was also useful for the likes of big online backups and grunty business collaboration via the cloud.

The entrepreneur said he was first approached by OnCell founder Thomas Dunne two years ago. The pair talked on and off every few months. Barnes said initially Authentic was too small to have enough sway. But after 24 months of rapid growth, the time was finally right to do a deal.

"This is a great result for Glen, who has worked with passion for years growing the company organically," said Punakaiki Fund manager Lance Wiggs, who put some of his own money into My Tours and helped negotiate the deal.

"He, like all other shareholders, takes money off the table and retains a meaningful percentage of OnCell. In the category, of museum and walking tours, where others have squandered millions, it's wonderful to get a such a positive result for all."