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On Monday New York based Wunderman, part of the WPP group, announced the acquisition of FusePump for an undisclosed sum.
We spoke to FusePump CEO Robert Durkin about the deal, and how the company positioned itself for the eventual acquisition...
How will the sale affect FusePump's current offering?
We’ll continue to provide the same products and services to our clients of course, but will be extending our offering too.
We are planning some exciting product developments leveraging the amazing data assets that the Wunderman Data & Insights team have access to. We are also launching a new SaaS platform for feed management towards the end of the year and will continue to roll out our new tracking and analytics service, which we are hoping will be accelerated by the acquisition.
Why did you decide to sell at this point?
We always envisaged selling the business in three to five years. We started in March 2009 and have now grown to a certain size where expansion needs to be accelerated by international growth.
The deal with WPP certainly delivers us this opportunity, so it’s a great fit in that respect. The opportunity arose when Wunderman approached us and we agreed with them that it would be an excellent strategic fit.
How does Wunderman benefit from the deal?
We strongly complement its offering as a digital agency network which invests heavily in data and insight.
It already has access to a large volume of behavioural data but adding product data and content will extend capabilities in personalisation and targeting.
In a way, we can provide the keys that help them unlock their big data assets. The company was also very interested in the talent at FusePump. We have a unique blend of technical and digital marketing expertise in-house which will be very valuable to them.
The idea of the 'lean startup' has made a lot of headway. In this context, is it better to align to the needs of your customers, or position yourself for a fruitful exit?
The answer is both, and in doing what we’ve done with our sale, we’ve proved this I think. We’ve always aligned with our customers' needs and wouldn’t have a business if we hadn’t done this.
Because product data pretty much underpins most digital marketing applications, we can help our customers to solve any problems or needs they have in this area.
We can usually do this faster than they would be able to using their in house teams, or with their digital agency, which has been the reason for our rapid growth.
We’ve had constant interest from VCs and private buyers being a fast growing business in an exciting space, but the trick is filtering the interest and knowing when there is real value in the opportunity.
It’s more a case of capitalising on the right deal opportunity and making the most of it when it does arrive than pushing for an exit at a certain point in time.
How do you market yourself for an exit/acquisition versus marketing to your customers?
We used a corporate advisory, Livingstone Partners, whose media technology team have a good awareness of the market.
For us, it was more about considering other options and creating a competitive process because we’d already been approached by what we thought was the right buyer.
It’s important to make the decision based on what’s right strategically and not just on price alone. I’ve always viewed the business as ‘a product’ to an extent and we have worked hard to create a strong brand and a valuable customer base to enhance value.
As a B2B business, all your customer marketing activity also contributes to your brand position and exposure so in that sense, marketing for an exit happens somewhat organically.
How can tech companies mitigate against offerings becoming redundant? (Tag management after Google Tag Manager is a classic example).
The answer is by holding valuable relationships with clients and being flexible and agile.
You have to create new products and use these to enhance the value of your relationships. You can’t really control for what Google, Facebook or other global tech does, you need to accept that commoditisation will happen and adapt by creating new and better opportunities.
In a growth market, there is always room for competitors, so it comes back down to developing relationships with clients and providing outstanding service – that is what makes you indispensable.