Jan
26
2021
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Bloomreach raises $150M on $900M valuation and acquires Exponea

Bloomreach, an API company that helps eCommerce customers with search and web site creation, announced a $150 million investment today from Sixth Street Growth. Today’s funding values the company at $900 million.

At the same time, the company announced it has acquired Exponea, a startup that gives Bloomreach a marketing automation component it had been missing. The two companies did not reveal the acquisition price, but along with the pure functionality, the company gains 200 additional employees, which is significant, considering Bloomreach had 300 prior to the acquisition. It also gains 250 net new customers, giving it a total of 750.

“Historically, we have had two major pillars of the business — the search part of it and the content part,” Bloomreach CEO and co-Founder Raj De Datta told TechCrunch. The content management component lets customers build websites, while the search powers the search box, navigation and merchandising. He points out that all of it is powered by an underlying data analysis engine that matches data to people and people to products.

Exponea will give the company more of a complete platform of services, allowing marketers to target and personalize their marketing messages across multiple channels. De Datta says the two companies had similar missions and made a good fit. “We have a common vision and common sort of product direction. […] Both companies are data-driven optimization technologies[…] and both are entrepreneurial product-driven companies,” he said.

It also helped that they had been partnering together for six months prior to the sale, which has now closed. Exponea was founded in 2016 in Slovakia and has raised over $57 million, according to Pitchbook data. The plan is to leave Exponea as a stand-alone product, while finding ways to integrate it more smoothly with the other components in the Bloomreach platform. They expect the integration parts to happen over the next year.

While De Datta did not want to share specific revenue figures, he did say that the company had a record second half as business was pushed online due to the pandemic. Michael McGinn, partner at Sixth Street and co-head at investor Sixth Street Growth doesn’t see the demand for eCommerce abating, even post-COVID, and that will drive a need for more customized online shopping experiences.

“Technology serving more bespoke customer experiences is a rapidly expanding market and we are pleased to join Bloomreach in its leadership of the digital commerce experience and marketing sector,” McGinn said in a statement.

De Datta says the money was used in part to buy Exponea, but he also plans to invest more in engineering to continue building the product line. The ultimate goal is an IPO, but as you would expect, he wasn’t ready to commit to any timeline just yet.

“I wouldn’t say we have a timeline, but our goal is that the company over the course of 2021 should make investments towards that, so that it’s an option for us.”

Jan
22
2021
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Drupal’s journey from dorm-room project to billion-dollar exit

Twenty years ago Drupal and Acquia founder Dries Buytaert was a college student at the University of Antwerp. He wanted to put his burgeoning programming skills to work by building a communications tool for his dorm. That simple idea evolved over time into the open-source Drupal web content management system, and eventually a commercial company called Acquia built on top of it.

Buytaert would later raise over $180 million and exit in 2019 when the company was acquired by Vista Equity Partners for $1 billion, but it took 18 years of hard work to reach that point.

When Drupal came along in the early 2000s, it wasn’t the only open-source option, but it was part of a major movement toward giving companies options by democratizing web content management.

Many startups are built on open source today, but back in the early 2000s, there were only a few trail blazers and none that had taken the path that Acquia took. Buytaert and his co-founders decided to reduce the complexity of configuring a Drupal installation by building a hosted cloud service.

That seems like a no-brainer now, but consider at the time in 2009, AWS was still a fledgling side project at Amazon, not the $45 billion behemoth it is today. In 2021, building a startup on top of an open-source project with a SaaS version is a proven and common strategy. Back then nobody else had done it. As it turned out, taking the path less traveled worked out well for Acquia.

Moving from dorm room to billion-dollar exit is the dream of every startup founder. Buytaert got there by being bold, working hard and thinking big. His story is compelling, but it also offers lessons for startup founders who also want to build something big.

Born in the proverbial dorm room

In the days before everyone had internet access and a phone in their pockets, Buytaert simply wanted to build a way for him and his friends to communicate in a centralized way. “I wanted to build kind of an internal message board really to communicate with the other people in the dorm, and it was literally talking about things like ‘Hey, let’s grab a drink at 8:00,’” Buytaert told me.

He also wanted to hone his programming skills. “At the same time I wanted to learn about PHP and MySQL, which at the time were emerging technologies, and so I figured I would spend a few evenings putting together a basic message board using PHP and MySQL, so that I could learn about these technologies, and then actually have something that we could use.”

The resulting product served its purpose well, but when graduation beckoned, Buytaert realized if he unplugged his PC and moved on, the community he had built would die. At that point, he decided to move the site to the public internet and named it drop.org, which was actually an accident. Originally, he meant to register dorp.org because “dorp” is Dutch for “village or small community,” but he mistakenly inverted the letters during registration.

Buytaert continued adding features to drop.org like diaries (a precursor to blogging) and RSS feeds. Eventually, he came up with the idea of open-sourcing the software that ran the site, calling it Drupal.

The birth of web content management

About the same time Buytaert was developing the basis of what would become Drupal, web content management (WCM) was a fresh market. Early websites had been fairly simple and straightforward, but they were growing more complex in the late 90s and a bunch of startups were trying to solve the problem of managing them. Buytaert likely didn’t know it, but there was an industry waiting for an open-source tool like Drupal.

Jan
13
2020
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Adobe Experience Manager now offered as cloud-native SaaS application

Adobe announced today that Adobe Experience Manager (AEM) is now available as a cloud-native SaaS application. Prior to this, it was available on premises or as a managed service, but it wasn’t pure cloud-native.

Obviously being available as a cloud service makes sense for customers, and offers all of the value you would get from any cloud service. Customers can now access all of the tools in AEM without having to worry about maintaining, managing or updating it, giving the marketing team more flexibility, agility and ongoing access to the latest updates.

This value proposition did not escape Loni Stark, Adobe’s senior director of strategy and product marketing. “It creates a compelling offer for mid-size companies and enterprises that are increasingly transforming to adopt advanced digital tools but need more simplicity and flexibility to support their changing business models,” Stark said in a statement.

AEM provides a number of capabilities, including managing the customer experience in real time. Having real-time access to data means you can deliver the products, services and experiences that make sense based on what you know about the customer in any given moment.

What’s more, you can meet customers wherever they happen to be. Today, it could be the company website, mobile app or other channel. Companies need to be flexible and tailor content to the specific channel, as well as what they know about the customer.

It’s interesting to note that AEM is based on the purchase of Day Software in 2010. That company originally developed a web content management product, but over time it evolved to become Adobe Experience Manager, and has been layering on functionality to meet an experience platform’s requirements since. Today, the product includes tools for content management, asset management and digital forms.

The company made the announcement today at NRF 2020, a huge retail conference taking place in New York City this week.

Nov
11
2019
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Salesforce Ventures invested $300M in Automattic while Salesforce was building a CMS

In September, Salesforce Ventures, the venture of arm of Salesforce, announced a hefty $300 million investment in Automattic, the company behind WordPress, the ubiquitous content management system (CMS). At the same time, the company was putting the finishing touches on Salesforce CMS, an in-house project it released last week.

The question is, why did it choose to do both?

One reason could be that WordPress isn’t just well-liked; it’s also the world’s most popular content management system, running 34 percent of the world’s 10 billion websites — including this one — according to the company. With Automattic valued at $3 billion, that gives Salesforce Ventures a 10 percent stake.

Given the substantial investment, you wouldn’t have been irrational to at least consider the idea that Salesforce may have had its eye on this company as an acquisition target. In fact, at the time of the funding, Automattic CEO Matt Mullenweg told TechCrunch’s Romain Dillet that there could be some partnerships and integrations with Salesforce in the future.

Now we have a Salesforce CMS, and a potential partnership with one of the world’s largest web content management (WCM) tools, and it’s possible that the two aren’t necessarily mutually exclusive.

Sep
25
2019
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How founder and CTO Dries Buytaert sold Acquia for $1B

Acquia announced yesterday that Vista Equity Partners was going to buy a majority stake in the company worth a $1 billion. That would seem to be reason enough to sell the company. That’s a good amount a dough, but as co-founder and CTO Dries Buytaert told Extra Crunch, he’s also happy to be taking care of his early investors and his long-time, loyal employees who stuck by him all these years.

Vista is actually buying out early investors as part of the deal, while providing some liquidity for employee equity holders. “I feel proud that we are able to reward our employees, especially those that have been so loyal to the company and worked so hard for so many years. It makes me feel good that we can do that for our employees,” he said.

Image via TechCrunch

Sep
24
2019
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Vista Equity Partners buys Acquia for $1B

Vista Equity Partners, which likes to purchase undervalued tech companies and turn them around for a hefty profit, has purchased web content management and digital experience company Acquia in a deal valued at $1 billion.

Robert F. Smith, who is founder and chairman of Vista Equity Partners, says that increasingly brands understand that delivering a quality digital experience is essential to their success, and he sees Acquia as well-positioned in the market to help deliver that. “Acquia understands this and is leading the way in providing innovative solutions to its customers while, at the same time, giving back to the open source community,” Smith said in a statement.

Company co-founder Dries Buytaert, writing on his personal blog about the deal, reiterated that the company will continue to be a big open-source contributor after the deal goes through. “This investment should be great news for the Drupal and Mautic communities as we’ll have the right resources to compete against other solutions, and our deep commitment to Drupal, Mautic and Open Source will be unchanged. In fact, we will continue to increase our current level of investment in Open Source as we grow our business,” he wrote.

Scott Liewehr, principal analyst at Digital Clarity Group, says Vista tends to buy companies and then centralize operations so the companies can concentrate purely on growth. “Vista, as a PE firm, tends to make money on companies by standardizing their operations to cut costs. It runs the portfolio companies more like divisions of a larger company than independent entities,” Liewehr wrote in a tweet.

Tony Byrne, founder and principal analyst at Real Story Group, a firm that keeps a close eye on the digital experience market, points to Marketo as a prime example of how this works. Vista acquired Marketo in May, 2016 for $1.8 billion in cash. It applied the centralization formula and sold the company to Adobe last year for $4.75 billion, a tidy little profit for holding the company for two years, but he cautions there is no guarantee this is how it will play out.

“For customers it depends on whether Vista is looking for mid-term income or pump-up-and-exit à la Marketo. For the former, it likely means some cost-cutting and potentially staff changes. For the latter, it means more acquisitions and heavy upselling of new services — likely as precursor to long-awaited IPO,” Byrne told TechCrunch. He added, “Tough to imagine any other software firm wanting to buy Acquia, though it’s always possible.”

It’s worth noting that Ping Identity, another firm Vista purchased in 2016, went public this week, so that pathway to IPO is a direction that Vista has also taken.

Acquia, which is the commercial arm for the open-source Drupal project, had raised $173.5 million, according to Crunchbase. The Drupal project was started by Buytaert in his dorm room at the University of Antwerp in 2000. Acquia launched as the project’s commercial arm in 2007.

Dec
03
2014
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Rumor: Web Content Management Firm Ektron Sold To Private Equity Company [Updated]

CMS concept image A source told TechCrunch this week that Ektron, a web content management firm based in Nashua, NH has been sold to an unnamed private equity firm for around $48M plus taking on $50M in debt. The source said the actual cash exchanged in the deal would only be in the $30M range, which is pretty low for an established enterprise software company. It’s worth noting that the company has… Read More

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