Personify acquires Wild Apricot

I can’t find a press release about it, but I’m hearing that Personify has acquired Wild Apricot. Will update this post as new information comes in.

Where are they now? Interview with Dave Will of Peach New Media

In this second installment of the Where Are They Now? series — in which I interview founders and CEOs of companies that have moved on after negotiating a merger, acquisition, or investment — Dave Will, co-founder of Peach New Media is featured. In February 2015, Abila acquired Peach New Media.

Q: Because M&A deals are shrouded in secrecy before the papers are signed, some were surprised by your decision to sell Peach New Media to Abila. What’s the story?

To be honest, it all came together so fast, even I was surprised. I had no intent on selling Peach when we were having so much fun and the business was doing so well. I used to get calls regularly from Investment Firms, but just about all of them are just trying to get a feel for who you are. Generally, they’re looking for a cheap buy. When AKKR called, they explained who they were and that they had bought Avectra just prior, so right away, I knew these guys knew our business and the industry. I was also in talks with another firm that had similar interests and connections in the association space, but AKKR’s positioning in the market with Avectra made it a good fit for Peach.

I continued the conversation, still not expecting it to actually happen but we continued down the road past the “Letter of Intent” and into the very intense process of “Due Diligence” and every time we passed one milestone we charged to the next. All the while, I was expecting things to fall apart and I was going to continue to drive the business to greater heights as a self funded entity. But things didn’t fall apart.. It just kept sticking together.

Ultimately, the decision came down to a few things:

  1. Was this deal going to be better for the business than if I were to continue running it myself? The answer was a resounding YES.
  2. Were my Peaches going to be taken care of and given greater opportunities than if I were to continue running the business myself? The answer was YES, with the caveat that I knew there would likely be 2-3 cuts with overlapping finance and administrative roles. I also knew there would be some culture changes, but that’s the nature of business.
  3. Was this going to be good for our clients? The answer again was YES, however, change is hard and I expected a little turbulence at the point of change.
  4. Finally, was this good for my family and me? The answer was YES. The truth is, after 14 years of blood, sweat and tears, the idea of sending my baby off to grow while I tried something new was appealing.

Q: Why are M&A deals so hush-hush before they’re announced?

Because most of them fail. Even after the “Letter of Intent”, which is basically an offer letter, something like 60% or 70% still fall through. There’s a ton of fear of change within the company as well as among the client base. It’s difficult when you’re typically transparent with everyone as I am, but it would be much more difficult managing the fear, especially since there is such a good chance of the deal falling through all together.

I did make the decision to tell people in my company before the deal was done. I don’t know if that was the right decision. I like to keep people in the loop and I needed their help in some ways, but it did raise a lot of fear and questions that I didn’t know the answer to. It became very distracting over the 6 month negotiation and diligence process.

Q: What are the biggest benefits that Peach customers have gotten from the acquisition?

  • Existing NetForum customers over time will have one team to work with along with a nicely integrated system. Although the systems need to be flexible enough to integrate with any platform, having the inside teams working so closely on a daily basis is a huge advantage for the customer. It also gives customers a really nice bargaining chip when investing in both platforms. It ay take 3-4 years before everything is working smoothly, but all in all this is a long game.
  • The other benefit for the entire market is an investment in the platform. Where a small business has to grow on it’s earnings, a business with investors has much greater access to funds to support really amazing initiatives.

Q: Have Peach customers suffered in any way since the sale?

Of course. Change is hard and leads to some disturbance. There are distractions among the stakeholders. There are new processes being put in place. Some customer contacts may change roles or leave all-together. Over the course of the last 2 years, most of our executive team has left, so there are some disturbances. And that’s tough.

The question I would ask is, what would have happened if we didn’t embrace change? Not just here in this particular circumstance, but in everything we do. If we let the fear and discomfort of change rule our decisions, there would be very little innovation, not much competition and we would all live in gray cinderblock buildings. Capitalism thrives on change and innovation. We have to accept the bad with the good.

Q: On a personal level, what was it like to sell a business that you’ve spent most of your working years building?

It was the greatest moment of my career. It was total validation that what we’ve been working on so hard all these years actually created value. The proof of value in business is often signified by dollars. Things that don’t offer value have no dollar value and things that deliver great value to the world have significant dollar value. So to have a firm offer life-changing dollars meant we were successful so far at creating a business that had made significant positive change for our industry. The transaction was over 2 years ago as I say this, but I still think back to the days 15 years ago when I was wallowing in massive credit card debt, with a double mortgage trying to figure out how I was going to come up with the money to hire my first employee that I desperately wanted to hire. I enjoyed every moment of the 14 year journey with my Peaches.

Q: You’ve recently started a new company, PropFuel. Give us the elevator pitch.

13% of people love their jobs. That means that 87% of the population wakes up monday morning and drags themselves into work. It’s the same 87% that are at risk of leaving if your competitor calls with a fraction increase in compensation.

PropFuel (www.propfuel.com) is a monthly subscription software for businesses who want their employees to love their job. It’s a weekly pulse survey that collects all kinds of feedback from your team so that you’re constantly focused on creating an environment where they can thrive. Part of that includes peer to peer recognition which encourages your team to give each other props when props are due.

With the analytics in PropFuel, you’ll be able to address the little things early before they become bigger issues. You’ll be able to identify aggregate data about your team’s happiness as well as drill down to the individual level to find out what’s going on with each person.

PropFuel will have your team coming to work “on the balls of their feet climbing the stairs two at a time”.

Q: Why do you think investors are increasingly interested in the association technology market?

It’s an untapped market with a lot of inefficiencies. Translation: there’s a lot they can fix and make more valuable in a short period of time. They can also relate the Association world with other verticals. For instance with Software Brands now being the mothership of Community Brands, that one company is using efficiencies to play in Associations as well as Non-Profits, Churches and corporations.

Q: Any predictions on what the next year will bring in the way of investment and M&A activity in the association sector?

With all the turbulence over the past 4-5 years, I would guess that things are going to slow down a bit and we’re going to see massive innovation. I’m sure there will be more acquisitions announced in the months to come, but we’re going to start to see the associations really begin to thrive based on the added value. As 3-4 years goes by, the acquired organizations will have been able to execute some of their longer term plans and we’ll start to see some of the earlier acquisitions really blossom. But, we’ll also see some new entrepreneurs enter the market filling in the gaps and taking advantage of the turbulent market. So look for the small startups if you’re tired of the big guns.

RUMOR: Big announcement from major AMS vendor coming soon

I’m hearing from a well-placed source that one of the top AMS platforms in the market is preparing to make a significant announcement in the coming days.

Where are they now? Interview with Amith Nagarajan, founder of Aptify

I’m starting a new series of posts here on theNIRD called Where are they now? in which I hunt down and interrogate founders/owners of association technology companies who have sold their businesses and moved on to other pursuits.

In this first installment of the series, I interview Amith Nagarajan, the founder of Aptify, which was acquired by Community Brands in March.

Q: Given your longtime involvement with the association community, and Aptify’s Evergreen status, some industry insiders were surprised by your decision to sell Aptify to Community Brands. What’s the story?

If you had asked me 12 months ago if I were planning to sell Aptify I would have told you that it was unlikely. I didn’t feel that there was a good strategic reason to do so. I enjoyed Aptify from when I founded it in 1993 through the last day I was there. Aptify wasn’t just about making money, it was about fulfilling a deeply held belief that we could significantly impact the association profession and ultimately improve society and the world through our work. I am very proud of what we accomplished as a team and most proud of the way we served clients and upheld our values as a team. Growing a company globally is a challenge and a privilege, particularly when the work you are doing can affect so many people in different fields.

Ultimately, I decided that the opportunity to sell made sense on 3 levels. First, I felt that our customers would be best served long term if the right acquisition were to take place. Second, I felt that the growth opportunities our team members would enjoy would also be maximized in the right deal. And finally, as the founder and entrepreneur behind Aptify, of course, I had to ensure it was a good deal financially. As I mentioned, I didn’t think that this type of deal would come together a year ago but things happened very quickly over the last quarter of 2016 and first quarter of 2017 and my team and I really bought into the vision of Community Brands and how it aims to serve the market in a whole new way. Not just due to its unprecedented scale, but with an approach across segments and product lines that will allow for new forms of functionality, integration and collaboration that just wouldn’t be possible before the Community Brands strategy came to life. I felt that our customers would be well served in an aligned culture and our team would have new and even better growth opportunities.

Q: What’s your biggest concern for Aptify clients as a result of the deal?

Any type of change is difficult and this is a pretty big one. As a result it is critical that clients of Aptify as well as the rest of the companies that have become part of Community Brands continue to receive clear and frequent communication from the leadership team. As long as the communication continues to be transparent and frequent I think there is very little to be concerned with. The investment level and long term commitment that Community Brands has committed to the Aptify product, clients and team will be very exciting for everyone. I wouldn’t have done the deal if I felt there was any major risk to any of the stakeholders in the company.

Q: On a personal level, what was it like sell a business that you’ve spent most of your working years building?

One word – strange. I am very happy with the decision and am super excited about what I’m doing now. But when you start a business in your college apartment as a teenager, see it grow into a global company and have spent essentially all of your adult life doing it, it is strange to wake up one day and not be part of it. I miss working with the awesome team members and our clients. I was very fortunate to have built a successful business and could have sold or stepped away well over a decade ago. But I stayed involved personally for years because I loved what we did and how we helped our clients. I also greatly enjoyed helping team members grow and building an amazing culture. So I do miss that. But, I think that change drives new forms of growth and having the same leadership (me) for so many years can also be limiting for both the team and the leader, so I think it is a good thing. But, as I said, it sure was strange the first few months.

Q: Some people may not know that Aptify wasn’t your only business, and that you’re a serial entrepreneur. I guess you’re not just going to drink Mai Tai’s on the beach for the rest of your life. Tell us about your portfolio of companies and investments.

Hahaha… I have spent a lot of time enjoying myself outside of work over the years and continue to do so, so I’m not too worried about getting beach time. Anyone who knows me would realize I would go nuts sitting around for too long. And business is huge fun if you have a great culture, team and clients! One of the reasons I started branching out from Aptify about a decade ago and helped other entrepreneurs build companies in other markets. I’m an investor or co-founder in about 15 other businesses, some very successful and some in early stages. Some startups I have backed have failed which is part of the journey. Entrepreneurship is about taking calculated risks and then going for it, and having fun along the way.

After the first dozen years of building Aptify I figured I would give back to the entrepreneurial cycle and invest in startups at the earliest possible stage. I helped quite a few early startups with initial seed capital and in some cases some advisory or board help to get off the ground and scale. I’m very proud of the entrepreneurs I’ve helped. Some of the companies I’ve been an early investor in include www.concertgenetics.com (SaaS for genetic testing),  www.zlien.com (Construction management software), www.kickboardforschools.com (Education software), and outside of software a few other things including www.bioceptive.com. More recently I’ve invested in some promising companies such as www.sixday.com and www.axosim.com  I’ve also been directly involved in a co-founder capacity with a few other companies over the past several years including www.radolo.com, www.aligntoday.com and www.rasa.io.

Q: You’ve recently taken over as the lead executive at one of your companies, rasa.io. Give us the rasa.io elevator pitch.

Sure. Rasa.io was originally incubated within Aptify’s Innovation Labs. Innovation Labs was a group I started within Aptify a number of years back whose charter was to go experiment with new forms of tech and find ways to apply it in a disruptive (not an incremental) way for associations and non-profits. Innovation Labs created a bunch of great improvements for the Aptify product over the years including some patent pending technology that dramatically improved the user experience within Aptify’s software. Innovation Labs also came up with the idea of personalized content curation using private association data and public content. Before selling Aptify I spun out rasa.io because I knew I wanted to keep rasa and focus on growing it. Once I was a couple months past the Aptify sale I decided to really dig in on rasa and focus on it personally because I believe rasa.io can solve one of the major domain problems in the association market… So here is the pitch:

Associations are good at doing things that drive deep but infrequent engagement – think about conferences, education programs and publications – all mainstays of association business and value creation. Great stuff but these things only happen annually, sometimes quarterly, at most monthly.

Associations do not typically do a good job of shallow and frequent engagement. That is, the opposite of what they do well — doing things that a member has a reason to interact/engage with on a regular basis – daily/weekly.

The above is what we call “The Association Engagement Gap”. That is, associations basically don’t have a good reason to talk to members on a regular basis, daily or weekly.

This is a huge issue because today people are inundated with content on an hourly basis on mobile and web and they don’t pay attention to anything for very long.

In addition, the social science behind habit and consumer brand loyalty is very clear – FREQUENCY IS KING. That is, frequency predicts habit formation – if you are interacting frequently with someone you are much more likely to have that person form a habit with your brand than if you interact with them infrequently but in a deep way (such as a conference)

Associations have 2 of the 3 things they need to solve this problem and “bridge the gap”. They have a great brand and they have a latent but extensive data set that provides hidden insights into consumer preference in their market. Yet they don’t really do much with their brands or their data.

The 3rd leg of the stool in solving this problem is a specialized form of Artificial Intelligence – which is what we’ve built – the AI will take the associations private data and then curate public content to create a daily email for each member that is relevant and personal. The AI is able to take into account preferences, areas of interest, relationships and much more. Over time the AI learns from a user’s behavior and automatically tailors more content to their likes and dislikes and is also able to share new content ideas based on trends in the market that are likely to be a fit for each person.

The ultimate goal is to assert the brand of the association as a must-have/go-to daily resource for the key news that someone needs in a given profession or industry.

This leads to broader and deeper engagement and that drives better results in traditional association lines of business like membership and conferences, but also create opportunities for new forms of monetization.

Summary: rasa.io delivers a truly personal daily briefing to your members of the things that matter most to them. In addition, rasa sends data back to your AMS, CMS, LMS and other systems signaling what each person is really focused on so the rest of your organization can more effectively serve them.

Q: Why do you think investors are increasingly interested in the association technology market?

Each investor has a different thesis on why the market makes sense, there are 2 or 3 different approaches I see active in the space at different stages of companies.

Q: Any predictions on what the next year will bring in the way of investment and M&A activity in the association sector?

I think you’ll see more of it, beyond that I don’t want to venture any guesses.

SURVEY: How do funding models affect buying decisions?

I’m conducting a three-minute survey on how various funding models affect decision-making in the buying process. If you’re reading this in your email inbox, please click through to complete the survey. A summary of the responses will be posted here, and an analysis of the data will be presented at AMS Fest in Washington, DC, November 13-14 as part of a session on M&A and investment activity in the not-for-profit technology sector. Your response will be held in confidence.

Solid M&A and Investment advice from Cimtari

Rick Bawcum of Cimtrai posted some excellent advice on how association technology execs should be preparing themselves for the inevitable continuing consolidation that we’ve been experiencing for the past few years. Some good analysis too, from someone who has a lot of experience in the technology sector, including in financial services. Check out the blog post.

AMS Fest acquired by Association Trends

As predicted on theNIRD, Association Trends announced the acquisition of AMS Fest today. Read the press release.

Full disclosure: The founder of AMS Fest and ReviewMyAMS, Teri Carden, is my partner.

RUMOR: Acquisition to be announced this week

From reliable sources, we’re hearing that a new acquisition will be announced in the coming days. Stay tuned for details.

INVESTMENT: Feathr takes round of funding from Freeman Digital Ventures

In July 2017, Feathr, a marketing technology company focused on the conference and event market, accepted an investment from Freeman Digital Ventures. Read the press release.

Community Brands announces Configio acquisition

Community Brands announced a new acquisition today, adding Configio, a cloud-based solution for event and activity-based organizations, to its family of companies. Configio allows organizations to “better manage members, clients, participants, marketing data, and more.” Configio counts Kampgrounds of America and the BolderBOULDER 10K as clients.

Dating back to 2012, Community Brands now counts the following companies in its portfolio.

  1. Abila
  2. Affiniscape
  3. Aptify
  4. Configio
  5. Digital Ignite
  6. Job Target
  7. NimbleUser
  8. YourMembership

Read the press release.