This AMS has an inside track on blockchain tech

Thanks to last year’s acquisition of Wild Apricot, Personify is poised to lead the pack on blockchain technology in the AMS market. Why?

Dmitry Buterin, the founder of Wild Apricot happens to be the father of Vitalik Buterin, co-creator of Ethereum, which is widely acknowledged as the second most valuable cryptocurrency behind Bitcoin. Dmitry is a blockchain enthusiast, and left his position at Wild Apricot to pursue business ventures in blockchain.

And although the elder Buterin has moved on from his post at Wild Apricot, he still serves in an advisory role at Personify, and the Wild Apricot technical team remains highly interested in how blockchain could be applied to associations.

So if you’re curious to see how blockchain applications make their way into the association market, keep your eye on Wild Apricot and Personify.

One of 2017’s acquisitions has a curious twist

Ssshhhhh! There’s a secret about one of last year’s acquisitions in the association technology market. One that gives the acquiring company a significant advantage over its competitors on an emerging technology that many futurists predict will revolutionize the business world and transform society.

That emerging technology is called Blockchain, and I’ll reveal the secret connection (and the vendor that stands to benefit from it) during an Association Trends webinar next week, called Bitcoin, Blockchain & Cryptocurrencies: What are they and how will they affect your association?

The webinar will also cover:

  1. The basics of Bitcoin, cryptocurrencies, and blockchains
  2. Professions, industries, and institutions that are most likely to be disrupted by blockchain technology
  3. Current and planned blockchain applications that are likely to affect or compete with associations
  4. Examples of established associations that are embracing and researching how blockchain will affect their members
  5. Critical questions about blockchain that association executives should be discussing with their senior teams and boards of directors

My co-presenter is anti-money laundering expert Doug McCalmont, founder of BlocAlt Consulting, which specializes in helping nonprofit organizations leverage blockchains to achieve their missions.

Register for the webinar today.

MemberSuite accepts $5.5M in funding

In November 2017, MemberSuite accepted a $5.5M round of funding. Check out the SEC filing.

To the best of my knowledge, MemberSuite is the only venture capital-backed AMS in the market, and has raised $13M in funding since September 2016. They appointed a new CEO in November 2017. This round of funding may have been used to acquire the shares owned by the founder and former CEO, transferring ownership of the company to new shareholders.

Gravitate accepts growth funding for Nucleus data analytics platform

In December 2017, Gravitate accepted an investment for Nucleus, its data analytics product for associations. The investor and amount of the investment were not disclosed. Read the press release.

Two acquisitions announced by Community Brands

In December 2017, Community Brands announced the “addition of 501 Auctions and Gesture to the company, and an agreement in principle to acquire GiveSmart.”

MemberSuite names a new CEO

Natalie Cheney has been amed the new CEO of MemberSuite, a Venture Capital backed AMS from Atlanta. While one may assume that the founder and former CEO, Andrew Ryan, has moved on, the press release doesn’t mention him, and his LinkedIn profile hasn’t been updated. I’m digging for more information and will update theNIRD as details come in.

M&A and Investment Panel finalized for AMS Fest

Before there was Community Brands, there was the dynamic duo of AMS Fest & theNIRD, leading the conversation about M&A, investments, and consolidation in the association technology market. For more than 14 months now, we’ve been informing association executives on how high finance affects the association technology landscape before anyone thought it mattered, and we’re just getting started.

Our next collaboration is coming up November 13-14 at AMS Fest in Washington, DC. We’ve convened an all-star panel of CEOs to discuss how different financial models affect their customers, and ultimately, their customers’ members. Expect a spirited debate as privately-held and private equity backed AMS CEOs go toe-to-toe on provocative questions about their financial posture. The panel includes:

  • JP Guilbault, President of St. Petersburg-based Community Brands. The blockbuster Community Brands deal, which consolidated four leading AMS platforms in March 2017, lent new energy to the M&A and investment conversation that AMS Fest and theNIRD started. Community Brands is backed by private equity firm Insight Venture Partners. And JP is excited about it, too (see his recent Facebook post).
  • Charlie Vinal, CEO of Euclid, a privately-held company based in Bethesda, Maryland and purveyors of the ClearVantage AMS. Euclid boasts that “90% of the company is owned by Euclid employees. This means that Euclid answers to its clients, not venture capital or private equity firms, many of which put short-term profitability ahead of long-term client satisfaction.” How’s that for an opening salvo?
  • Sarah Asterbadi, CEO of MemberNova, a relatively new entrant to the AMS market, based in Toronto. MemberNova is privately-held, with backing from a successful parent company, Club Runner, that specializes in club management software. I was recently introduced to Sarah by phone, and — hang on — after our conversation, I’m convinced she’s a firecracker who’s going to light a spark that’ll blow the lid off of this conversation.

But wait, there’s more!

We’ve also got an association CEO on our panel to bring the perspective of how “the big cheese” should be thinking about M&A and investments.

  • Mark Dorsey, CAE is CEO of the Construction Specifications Institute, based in Alexandria, Virginia. Mark brings a well-rounded perspective to the panel as a CEO who has experienced the effects of M&A and investments on associations he has headed, and negotiated the sale of a business owned by his association employer. He’s also highly respected in the association management field, and an ASAE Fellow.

Hold on! Still more electrifying goodness to share: During the session, we’ll reveal the results of a survey on association executives’ attitudes towards the various funding models at work in the association market. You can take the three-minute survey now, if you haven’t already.

Register for AMS Fest now — there are only a few seats left — to catch this panel discussion and other cutting-edge sessions on blockchain, EU data privacy laws, digital transformation, and Uberization. Plus a few you’ll-never-guess surprises.

Register now. Seriously; you’ll regret not attending.

theNIRD just starts the conversation: your recent comments

I love hearing from readers. Comments are always welcome, and you can even share your thoughts with me anonymously. Here are some of the comments posted to theNIRD in the past week:

Wild Apricot’s founder, Dmitry Buterin, chimed in on my analysis of Personify’s acquisition of his company:

Ben, your analysis is right on point – and that’s why we decided to go with it. BTW, WA has over 10,000 paying clients and also a bunch on free plans.

Kevin Ordonez, one of the founders of Avectra, and now with .orgSource in Chicago, on my analysis of the spate of recent down-market acquisitions:

Another possible reason is that there were trillions of dollars on the sideline right now and investors need to get that off their books…this also might mean some of these companies are getting inflated valuations. Just saying…

Meredith Low, a consultant from Toronto, also chimed in on the down-market consolidation:

Thanks for the summary. I’d add an implication to your list. Typically there are challenges with post-acquisition integration go much broader than what is visible to customers. There may be both voluntary and involuntary moves among staff, including some excellent folks who for whatever reason don’t find themselves a home in the new, bigger entity.

This means that if anyone in the association technology space is looking to staff up, they should keep an eye on the staff from both recently-acquired companies, and their purchasers.

And finally, Paul Keogan, a nonprofit technology consultant in West Chester, PA, on my analysis of Higher Logic’s acquisition of Informz and Real Magnet.

Clients that use Higher Logic most often integrate with an AMS/CRM (Salesforce, iMIS, etc.) Most of these AMS/CRMs have build-in or tightly integrated mass mailing platforms and some have advanced marketing automation platforms as well.

Higher Logic must think bundling the email marketing platforms with Higher Logic’s engagement platform and improving automation rules platform will help them win more business because they offer a more complete solution. This should be true in the iMIS world, or less sophisticated organizations not using some of Salesforce’s higher end marketing tools or integrations.