MOVE Guides acquires Polaris Global Mobility to expand services for expats and relocation

Relocation, relocation, relocation, as the saying (sort of) goes. On the heels of raising $48 million last year to tap into the growing needs of businesses to handle global workforces (a huge if sometimes controversial area of the job market), MOVE Guides today announced an acquisition to expand its footprint in the market and the services it offers to customers. The startup is buying up Polaris Global Mobility, which works with large enterprises to build software to manage ex-pat program management and payroll. Polaris works with large tech companies like Dell (and a number of others that prefer not to be named) among others in other sectors like industrial, financial and pharmaceutical.

Financial terms of the deal are not being disclosed, said MOVE Guides’ CEO and founder Brynne Kennedy in an interview. Polaris is bootstrapped, has been around for 16 years, and has “grown to significant, double-digit ARR since its founding,” she said.

Kennedy said the acquisition was made to extend MOVE Guides’ touchpoints with customers. It started out by going after legacy players in the area of relocation, such as Cartus, Brookfield and Aires. Move will now be able to offer more after-move services such as tax and payroll to those customers.

“We considered building our own expatriate management solutions,” she said, but decided that it made more sense to acquire Polaris and accelerate value for our customers. Our customers have been asking for this for a while, and we saw great synergies between the technologies and companies. The complexity of building a global tax engine and expatriate payroll functionality is high, and Polaris is best in class.”

Globalization is a major force in our world today. We usually hear about it in the context of how goods are made in one market and often procured by buyers somewhere completely different, or how newer services like the internet have “shrunk” the world to let news and other information travel at the speed of light, and the negative and positive consequences of each.

What’s less buzzy, but actually part and parcel of both of those developments, is the movement of people, who are sent to different markets to build these businesses and can do so because of explosion of networking and the many products built on it to improve communication (I am a direct beneficiary of that, here in London, working as a writer and news editor for TC, a San Francisco-based publication).

The fact that the movement of people and how they can subsequently be employed in their non-home has flashpoint topic in the US and in other countries like the UK — a testament to how big and potentially disruptive the space is and will continue to be in the future. Global mobility is forecast to be a $11 billion-$15 billion market by 2023, larger even than core human resources services, said Kennedy.

This is driving some interesting business opportunities for those who are looking to take leadership positions in this space, and in addition to traditional players like EY and Equus (which work together), as well as immigration data startups like Envoy Global, when you consider that companies like Salesforce and Microsoft, as well as startups like Zenefits are all also considering how to grow deeper into more back-office services for enterprises, you can see where a company like MOVE Guides (or Polaris, for that matter) might be an interesting target.

“We are actually seeing two things, consolidation and ‘SaaS-ification,'” Kennedy noted, “and we have reinforced our position with the addition of Polaris.”

Kennedy said MOVE Guides is not currently raising capital in the near term. It’s raised around $90 million to date and is valued in the hundreds of millions of pounds.  It’s not clear how that valuation is now changing with the addition of Polaris but it’s an obvious bid to position the combined company to take on a bigger role and bigger money in the future.

“MOVE Guides has established itself as an innovation leader,” said Bryan Williams, CEO of Polaris in a statement. “They deliver an exceptional experience to employees and very clearly share our commitment to digital innovation and service, which made this deal a natural choice to take our company to the next level.”