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SambaSafety nets ‘significant’ buy-in from venture firm

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — SambaSafety Inc., an Albuquerque-based driver-monitoring service for fleet managers, has closed on a new venture investment that gives Boston-based ABRY Partners majority ownership in the company.

The deal provides substantial growth capital for Samba to expand its operations in the U.S. and Canada, said company CEO Richard Crawford.

The amount invested remains confidential, but ABRY is one of the nation’s premier venture firms, with interests in more than 450 properties since 1989. ABRY currently manages over $4.3 billion in its active funds. It generally invests between $25 million and $150 million in portfolio companies.

“We reached a definitive agreement with ABRY Partners as the lead investor in the recapitalization of the company,” Crawford told the

Journal . “We won’t release the total size, but it’s very significant.”

Samba will remain headquartered in Albuquerque. It will use the new capital to grow into a nationally operated firm.

“This basically gives us a much deeper round of equity and debt capital to build the company,” Crawford said. “Our growth strategy has been about taking products created in New Mexico and selling them nationally. This new investment allows us to truly build a national company.”

Samba offers driver risk-management services for public and private fleet managers to maintain accurate, current information about all vehicle operators. The company’s proprietary software system continuously collects, correlates and analyzes driver information from many sources, such as driving records, court data, and accident and incident reports, allowing employers to manage risk more effectively.

The company, which launched in Albuquerque in 1998, initially received $2.8 million in private equity from the New Mexico Angels and other investors. Samba has rapidly expanded since 2011, when Santa Fe-based Cerca Group LLC acquired it.

It now serves about 16,000 customers, helping to evaluate about 12 million drivers per year and providing continuous monitoring services for about 500,000 drivers.

Samba reached $17.2 million in revenue in 2012. It no longer reports sales, but Crawford said revenue has more than doubled since then.

The company employs about 150 people nationally. It expects to grow its New Mexico workforce from about 40 now to 50 later this year. It will also expand its current 9,000-square-foot offices near the Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta Park.

Cerca Group partner and Samba Executive Chairman John Bingaman called Samba a New Mexico success story.

“This is a homegrown Albuquerque company that has pioneered cloud-based driver risk-management software and grown significantly,” Bingaman said. “It’s now well-positioned to accelerate that growth.”

Some of the original investors remain in Samba.

“Samba shows that we can start a small company here with local investors and grow it into a truly national company,” said New Mexico Angels President John Chavez.

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