Today one of our portfolio companies BigDoor announced the acquisition of San Francisco-based OneTrueFan, a community and web check-in company. We invested in BigDoor a little over a year ago and they’ve made amazing progress on their gamified loyalty platform since then. In addition to having over 300 live customers, BigDoor is also conducting a private beta of a truly innovative solution that they call the Engagement Economy, and we expect it have long lasting implications on how the digital world engages and monetizes their audiences.
Recently the market demand has been outpacing their ability to keep up, so they turned to OneTrueFan as a means of accelerating their product development and overall growth. When there is a great fit, I love seeing our portfolio companies make acquisitions. In this case, BigDoor gains access to a team of incredibly talented entrepreneurs (led OneTrueFan co-founders Eric Marcoullier and Todd Samson), thousands of publishers, and tech that fits perfectly into BigDoor’s gamified loyalty platform.
The former OneTrueFan team will be primarily focused on building and running a BigDoor branded rewards program that is targeted to long tail and medium size web publishers. When they launch BigDoor Rewards next month, it will carry with it many of the same characteristics publishers loved from OneTrueFan; brain-dead simple to implement, great analytics, increased content sharing, and far more user engagement. Shortly thereafter BigDoor will be taking the wraps off of their Engagement Economy private beta, and making it publicly available to larger publishers and online communities.
Todd and Eric have been friends of mine for a long time. Between the two of them they have co-founded IGN.com (IPO in 2000, acquired by NewsCorp in 2005), MyBlogLog (acquired by Yahoo in ’07) and Gnip (which I’m an investor in). Needless to say, I’m excited to see what happens as they join the BigDoor team.
Congrats to my friends at Gist for being acquired by RIM.
I met TA McCann, the CEO / founder of Gist at the first Defrag Conference when he took me for a pair of runs along the Denver Creek Path and it’s been a blast to work with him and the Gist team ever since.
Also, congrats to RIM for picking up an awesome team that’s been thinking about and building software for the intersection of social and email since before talking about it was in vogue.
I love when companies I’m an investor in use acquisitions to build out their product line. In April Rally Software did one when they acquired AgileZen; yesterday they announced that Rally Software has acquired the ScrumAway iPhone app from Blue Hole Software.
Rally has re-released the product (previous a $15 download) as a free product called Rally for the iPhone that tightly integrates with the Rally SaaS-based Agile software lifecycle environment. If you are a Rally customer, this is a no-brainer app for you; if you aren’t a Rally customer but are an Agile development shop that also has a bunch of iPhone users, take a look at Rally’s products.
And – if you are an entrepreneur running a company that you think fits with any of the companies I’m an investor in, don’t ever hesitate to drop me an email to explore things.
Another TechStars company has been acquired. Well – part of it has been acquired. Today it was announced that eBay has acquired the RedLaser product from Occipital. The Occipital guys tell the story in their post titled Arrival at the Launchpad.
Occipital’s founders – Jeff and Vikas – are the epitome of bootstrap entrepreneurs. Every TechStars class seems to have one and Occipital wins the bootstrapper of TechStars Boulder 2008 award. At the end of the program they had a few chances to raise money but weren’t happy with the valuations so decided to hunker down and just bootstrap things. They reinvented themselves several times until they launched RedLaser which has been a runaway hit (over two million copies sold to date.) As RedLaser took off, they had another set of interesting investment offers but no longer have any need for outside capital.
While they were on their way to creating an interesting mobile ecommerce company, they wanted to work on a much bigger set of technical challenges than RedLaser in computer vision and augmented reality, their areas of passion and technical expertise. In their travels they had a few inquires for an acquisition of the company, but really only wanted to sell the RedLaser product, not the entire company. Fortunately, eBay was very interested in the RedLaser product and the match worked extremely well for both parties.
Given this sale, I expect Occipital is now a long way from ever raising outside capital. Jeff and Vikas are now extremely well funded, are scaling up a very interesting team, and going after a huge vision. Oh – and RedLaser is now free in the iPhone AppStore. Congrats to Occipital, Vikas and Jeff!
How could you not fall in love with a company named AgileZen? Today, Rally Software – a company I’ve been an investor in since 2003 – announced that they have acquired AgileZen. If you are an Agile software development shop, or follow ALM, Rally just added Kanban to the mix.
This is the second acquisition Rally has made – the other was 6th Sense Analytics which they acquired at the beginning of 2009. If you follow this blog, you know that I’m a big fan of having established companies I’m an investor in buy smaller companies to help build out their product road map. I’m explicitly not a fan of rollups – I’ve had my share of investments in rollups that didn’t work. But I love targeted acquisitions that build out specific capabilities on an established company’s roadmap or add key people to the team. If you are looking for recent examples of this in my world, two others are NewsGator’s acquisition of Tomoye or Zynga’s acquisition of Serious Business.
Both companies have detailed blog posts about the deal – Welcome AgileZen! and We’ve joined Rally Software. If you are a company operating in one of our themes, don’t ever hesitate to reach out to me if you think you might fit with a company we’ve already invested in – you never know where the conversation might lead.
And congrats to both Rally and AgileZen – I’m excited for you guys.
Gist just announced that they have acquired Learn that Name and incorporated it in the Gist iPhone app.
There are a lot of fun connections here for me. For starters, as many of you know, I’m an investor in Gist. If you haven’t tried it – or haven’t played with it for a while – give it a shot. The evolution of the product over the last six months has been remarkable as it gets better every two weeks (the Gist teams’ release cycle).
The iPhone app has been out for a while and is a killer. I’ve seen the Android app – it’s equally cool and useful. Each of them connect up to the Gist service that lives in the cloud and connects together all of your contact information, builds an implicit social network based on your email traffic and friends lists, and surfaces a variety of content (including news as well as real-time stuff) for your contacts.
Learn that Name was a Startup Weekend Seattle project from a few months ago. Andrew Hyde, who is the community manager for TechStars, created Startup Weekend and I attended the first one in Boulder. It has become an amazing worldwide phenomenon that is now run by Clint Nelsen and Marc Nager. So – that’s linkage two for me.
The idea for Learn that Name came from Eric Koester, a lawyer in Cooley’s Seattle office. Eric has been super helpful on the Startup Visa initiative as well, working on an ABA brief for us that will hopefully be officially approved soon. Who said that lawyers weren’t a force for good in the world? So – that’s linkage number three.
TechCrunch’s article gives a little more history on the deal and how the proceeds (yes – there are proceeds) are being split up among the team members that participated in the Startup Weekend project. I know that at the very first Startup Weekend that I attended in Boulder there was a hope that some of these projects would spin out and either get commercialized or acquired. I’m proud to be involved in one of the first ones to have this happen. Oh – and Learn that Name when played within Gist’s iPhone app is a lot of fun.
Congrats to all my friends at Kerpoof – it was announced a few weeks ago that Kerpoof was acquired by Disney. Krista Marks – the CEO and co-founder – emailed me the Kerpoof mouse ears photo which inspired me to blog about them. It’s another great example of a local Boulder software / Internet company that had a passion, made something happen, and had a great exit.
I met Krista and her co-founders at a CSIA event and then again while they were gearing up for the 2007 TechCrunch 40. I gave them feedback on their presentation, started playing around with Kerpoof, and decided that Krista was a star. They weren’t raising money at the time (they were self funded through consulting work they were doing while building out their service) so I gave them feedback whenever they asked and stayed close to them. I encouraged Krista to have Kerpoof join the Entrepreneurs Foundation of Colorado – which they did.
Last spring, Krista told me they had been approached by a large company that was interested in acquiring them. She was looking for advice – both business and legal – on the deal. I connected her with Mike Platt at Cooley – one of the best entrepreneurial M&A lawyers I’ve worked with. I also provided friendly feedback to Krista and her partners during the process. Mike turned out to be the perfect fit for them as a deal lawyer and helped them navigate an extended negotiation very gracefully.
The acquisition closed last fall, but Disney and Kerpoof wanted to do some integration before announcing it. I’m glad the news is out – Krista can now wear her Mickey Mouse ears and PJ’s in public. And I especially appreciate Kerpoof’s contributions – through the Entrepreneurs Foundation – to several local organizations, including the National Center for Women & Information Technology.
Oh – and keep being innovators!
On Monday, StillSecure announced that it has acquired ProtectPoint. ProtectPoint is a managed security service provider (MSSP) and immediately adds a portfolio of managed security products to StillSecure’s award-winning product arsenal. Alan Shimel, the Chief Strategy Officer of StillSecure, does an excellent job of explaining the reasons for the acquisition in his post titled StillSecure acquires ProtectPoint, entering the MSSP market – Why?
This is the second time in less than a month that a company I’m on the board of has made an acquisition. At the end of January, in my post titled Rally Software is a Buyer I wrote:
“[With regard to an acquisition strategy] I’m seeing this pattern with a number of the established companies I’m an investor in. Having gone through this cycle several times and had success and failure with acquisition driven strategies, I’ve got a clear view on when and how it can work successfully. I’m not interested in garbage truck mergers (two crappy companies that get jammed together to hope something good comes out of it) – all of my energy is focused on having a market leader pick up a complementary technology or market “asset” that helps accelerate the product or market roadmap.”
As with Rally’s acquisition of 6th Sense Analytics, StillSecure has been working on building out a set of managed security offerings around their product set. The demand for managed security services (or security as a service, or whatever you want to call it) has been steadily increasing and StillSecure decided to explore a buy vs. build approach to accelerate their entry into the market. StillSecure went searching for a company to acquire and found a great fit (functionally and culturally) with ProtectPoint and now has a fully built out and well regarded MSSP offering as part of its product mix.
Having spent some time with Steve Harris, the CEO of ProtectPoint, I’m really excited about what he and his team bring to StillSecure. I also have another person to hang out besides Alan when I head to Florida for a break from winter. Steve and team – welcome aboard!
Two weeks ago, one of the companies I’m on the board of – Rally Software – announced that they have acquired a company called 6th Sense Analytics.
I’ve been involved in Rally since the very beginning and it has been incredibly rewarding to see them grow from an idea that the founder/CTO Ryan Martens had to the market leader in Agile application lifecycle management. Rally updates quarterly their “by the numbers page” which gives a nice overview of the scale of Rally.
In Q4 of 2008 we started getting some inbound calls from other software companies that were in related markets to Rally. These calls were from companies that had developed significant software assets, but hadn’t really had much market success. In several cases they were companies that had worked with Rally; in other cases they were from folks that thought they might be complimentary to Rally.
In response, Rally’s leadership team identified a number of areas on their roadmap that they could accelerate (or bring forward) by acquiring a small company. They’ve used this to quickly decide whether or not it is worth spending time with the inbound inquiries they were receiving.
One of them – 6th Sense – fit great. Rally has a significant amount activity on their product roadmap in 2009 around development metrics and analytics. Rally and 6th Sense engaged in a serious discussion and within 45 days had closed an acquisition. Internally, Rally went through a detailed build vs. buy analysis; adding the 6th Sense folks to the overall team and incorporating their software into the mix was a no-brainer decision for us.
I’m seeing this pattern with a number of the established companies I’m an investor in. Having gone through this cycle several times and had success and failure with acquisition driven strategies, I’ve got a clear view on when and how it can work successfully. I’m not interested in garbage truck mergers (two crappy companies that get jammed together to hope something good comes out of it) – all of my energy is focused on having a market leader pick up a complementary technology or market “asset” that helps accelerate the product or market roadmap.
Look for a lot more of this in 2009.