Sometimes a rumor turns out to be just that. There were no investments, mergers, acquisitions, or consolidations announced during the Hot Off the Press segment at AMS Fest. Watch the archived Facebook Live broadcast.
I’m at AMS Fest this week and rumors are swirling that an AMS deal is about to be announced. At 2pm EDT today, the Hot Off The Press segment of AMS Fest will be broadcast live on the ReviewMyAMS.com facebook page. Watch live for announcements!
The following is an opinion piece from the EVP of Membership Solutions at Community Brands, Dan Gaertner. At AMS Fest (June 7-8, 2017 in Chicago) Dan will appear on a panel discussion about the M&A and investment activity in the NFP technology sector.
Since the inception of Community Brands and having met many Abila customers at the Abila User and Developer Conference (AUDC) in early April 2017, and rubbed elbows with hundreds of YourMembership (YM) customers at the Xperience annual user conference later the same month, it’s been validated for me that technology providers serving associations and associations partnering with technology providers need a boost to help the industry grow and better meet missions.
The past 60 days has authenticated for me one of the primary reasons a company like Community Brands is needed for both the association and nonprofit markets. And, it confirms why we’ve started to bring technology-leading companies together in this space.
In my past role as chief product officer at YourMembership and new role as executive vice president of membership solutions at Community Brands, I’ve spent much of the past couple of months traveling around the country getting to know the people, the challenges, the opportunities and the strategy behind each organization. And now we are bringing that collective wisdom together of Abila, Aptify, NimbleUser and YourMembership at Community Brands.
What have I learned?
- We all have similar challenges.
- We have a massive amount of combined experience and industry knowledge.
- We are all dedicated to serving an inspiring market.
Different companies, same challenges.
To no one’s surprise, we are saddled with similar challenges. We’re all trying to serve a customer base and market each brand has identified. And, while point solutions exist in the market, by combining these organizations, we’re creating a broad suite of products which can truly serve the market end-to-end.
Each brand has its challenges evolving their AMS product. The unique needs, change in staff, complex configurations and the customizations which come with large and small associations introduce unforeseen defects and make upgrades more challenging.
We now have an opportunity to come together to share best practices and perhaps educate both sides (the customer and Community Brands) about how to innovate and standardize in our market. We need to focus less on the technology and more on the strategy of how to increase membership and make content easier for members to consume.
It’s impossible to innovate without knowledge and skill.
By joining together these groups, it also allows us to bring innovation in a way we can’t do as well as individual companies. There’s no doubt there are some talented industry business leaders, thought leaders and engineers throughout these organizations. It’s a powerful balance when you combine long-time industry leaders, former association executives and outside technologists.
When I joined YM as chief product officer nearly two-and-a-half years ago, I had no previous experience in the association space. You ask: How could they bring in a guy with no experience with associations to lead the product strategy for one of the largest SaaS solutions in the industry? The answer is simple for me. Fresh eyes, different perspective collaborating with industry experts can make for a powerful combination.
A lot of the businesses, associations and products we’ve brought together have been doing the same things for years and innovation hasn’t kept up with challenges facing the industry. We’re now leading innovation with a lot of smart people who have fresh eyes and distinct perspectives, and I think this gives us an exceptional opportunity to build and evolve association management software products and technology solutions into something to better serve the association market.
Associations and nonprofits inspire us.
Before I arrived at YM, I had never seen a company—from top to bottom—work as hard as the employees at YourMembership. It’s amazing how much is accomplished with so little. I thought to myself: “This isn’t normal.” Well, now I’ve learned it’s normal throughout this industry, because the same approach is happening at Abila, Aptify and NimbleUser.
Employees care about the causes of their customers and believe in the value and impact we each bring to the industry. And, it’s easy to be inspired when, for example, we’re seeing associations and nonprofits use technology to provide a better life for underprivileged children and to help families cope and deal with terminal illnesses.
We believe we can serve the association and nonprofit markets by bringing together smart people who can help build better integrated products and help those markets achieve greater success. And, that’s what our customers are betting on.
If you like what you’re reading on theNIRD.org, you may be interested in “Hot off the Press,” a segment of AMS Fest that will be broadcast on Facebook Live at 1pm CDT on Wednesday, June 7, 2017.
There’s a strong possibility that some significant announcements will be made during this 15 minute session, and by tuning into the Facebook Live broadcast, you’ll be among the first to know about them.
In May 2017, ASI International, creators of the iMIS AMS platform, acquired Innovative Software Solutions Inc. (ISSI), as a wholly-owned subsidiary. ISSI is a 160-staff company offering “benefit administration software and services to multi-employer/union affiliated benefit funds in North America.” Read the press release.
ASI International accepted $26M in growth equity funding in July 2016.
The following is an opinion post from Matrix Group CEO, Founder & Chief Troublemaker Joanna Pineda, and originally appeared on the MatriXFiles blog:
Last month, some of the largest AMS (association management system) companies (YourMembership, Abila, Aptify and NimbleAMS) joined forces to create Community Brands, which they describe as “a powerful and unified family of brands and a connected eco-system of software and services to better serve associations, nonprofits and government entities.”
One can quibble over whether or not Community Brands will be a “family” of complementary or competing brands. But for a company like Matrix Group, with our web-based MatrixMaxx AMS, the big question is: In this age of mega-mergers, is there still room for a small, local player? Can we compete with the big guys for clients and talent?
I’m confident that the answer is a resounding “Yes!”
Many years ago, the book club at Matrix Group read Small Giants by Bo Burlingham, Editor-at-Large at Inc. magazine. In the book, Bo writes about 14 companies that are small and growing or small and choosing to stay small. In all cases, they have chosen excellence over growth.
Excellence over growth has always been my mantra. If growth made sense in any given year, we went for it, but never at the expense of technical excellence, customer service, customer intimacy and terrific user experience.
Sure, in many ways, being small, niche and custom is anti-trend. Aren’t we all shopping at Amazon and big box retailers? Aren’t we most impressed by the companies that have big, booming growth and huge total revenue numbers (often ignoring net income; we rarely hear about that). But on the other hand, there’s a movement to support small, local businesses. Think of the millennials who prefer independent coffee shops, bookstores and clothing shops.There’s a reason they prefer small and local and I’d wager it’s because they get a more personalized, friendly, and tailored experience.
I spoke with a few clients over the past few weeks and they told me that they like working with Matrix Group because:
- We have an amazing staff
- Our work is of very high quality
- We offer superior technical solutions on the AMS and custom sides of the business
- We are easy to work with, easy to reach
- We listen and respond to their needs
- They never feel like just another client among hundreds or thousands
- We have a track record of success
- They know we’ll do what it takes to help them be successful
- They get customized, personal attention and ideas
While small companies don’t have a monopoly on the above characteristics, somehow, smaller companies are more likely to take the time to really get to know their customers.
As for the war on talent, I absolutely love this opinion piece by columnist Gene Marks in Inc. Magazine. He talks about why it’s better to work for a small company over a large company. In fact, I have refugees from large firms who tell me they enjoy have a large voice in the company, having an outsized impact on clients’ success, and easy access to senior leadership.
For sure, going up against a behemoth like Community Brands will be challenging. But I gotta stay true to my core belief that we can compete with any company and help our clients make the world a better place. I know that Matrix Group and the MatrixMaxx AMS can compete based on technical solutions, customer service, price and customer intimacy. No question about it.
A mere three weeks after Aptify and Abila got under the Community Brands umbrella, on April 26, 2017 it was announced that NimbleUser would be joining them.
NimbleUser is a Rochester, NY based company that has spent the last decade building a Salesforce-powered AMS called NimbleAMS. Prior to releasing the NimbleAMS product in late 2011, NimbleUser was an iMIS reseller and Solution Provider. A family owned business up until a few days ago, Sig VanDamme is the Founder, his wife, Dawn, serves as CEO, and Joe Klimek serves as President.
Industry observers had mixed reactions to the deal. Some were surprised, knowing that Sig and Dawn have a strong commitment to the city of Rochester, and their company culture — a deal that could risk the product of their life’s work seemed out of alignment with their values.
Others saw the writing on the wall: NimbleUser was one of only a few enterprise AMS companies to have not taken any funding. NimbleUser needed growth capital to accelerate product development. A phone interview with Sig VanDamme confirmed it. He said the alternative, continuing to fund research and development out of their own revenues, would result in delayed time to market for a number of initiatives they had on their roadmap.
Interest among association technologists in Salesforce-based AMS products has been climbing along with Salesforce’s rise to become one of the world’s most innovative and largest companies. Hitching your AMS to a database core that receives almost a billion dollars of R&D annually is attractive. But all that R&D money comes at a cost: Salesforce-based platforms are among the most expensive solutions on the market, competitive with other enterprise-grade AMS platforms.
NimbleAMS competes head-to-head with Fonteva’s MemberNation platform, which is also Salesforce-powered. They also compete (less directly) against other enterprise-grade AMS platforms like Personify, iMIS, Abila’s netFORUM Enterprise, and Aptify.
That’s right! If you’re keeping score at home, Community Brands now has three enterprise-grade AMS platforms in its pen: NimbleAMS, Aptify, and netFORUM Enterprise. While it’s still very early in Community Brands’ history, this fact should serve as evidence that they intend to deliver on the promise to allow its companies to compete for business. After all, why would anyone add another competitor to the pen if you didn’t really expect them to fight it out?
At the same time, some industry insiders acknowledge that this deal reduces choice for enterprise-grade AMS products; three of the seven are now owned by the same parent company. In interviews I conducted with association technology consultants, some prospects now feel like they’re “negotiating with themselves.” How much leverage does a prospect really have when they press two companies owned by the same parent for better contract terms?
What does this deal mean for NimbleAMS customers? In my view, not much. A Salesforce-powered AMS should be expected to stand on its own for as long as Salesforce is in business. Any risk that Nimble might be merged with Aptify or netFORUM Enterprise is very remote. However, based on a pattern that I’ve witnessed with other family owned companies that become investor-backed, there is a higher risk that the business processes will be more substantially impacted than a company that passes from one investor to another. NimbleUser customers should be prepared for some adjustments in the transition.
I’m hearing rumors from several knowledgeable sources that an enterprise level AMS has been holding a letter of intent to be acquired for months.
Why don’t I name the companies in rumor posts? Check out theNIRD.org’s policies.
I received a tip yesterday afternoon that NimbleUser would be welcomed to the Community Brands family of companies. This post was scheduled yesterday evening, on the request of my source, and will be updated as new details, including a press release, are made available. The press release is scheduled to go out in the early morning hours according to my sources.
For those unfamiliar, NimbleUser’s flagship product is NimbleAMS, a Salesforce-powered AMS. They’re based in Rochester, NY, and Sigmund VanDamme is their Founder. NimbleUser may be best known in the association sector for their retro Airstream camper which they haul to major trade shows.