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I love playing offense.
FullContact is officially in this mode and today announced that they have acquired Cobook with Pot, Ski Passes and Dogecoin. Kaspars Dancis – the awesome CEO of Cobook – has a more seriously titled (and equally serious post) up at COBOOK + FULLCONTACT.
One of my basic strategies as an investor is to use targeted small acquisitions throughout the life of a company. In 2005 Fred Wilson called this approach the “venture rollup” and said nice words about me and it in his post when he said “My good friend Brad Feld is up to his old tricks. Brad is the master of the venture rollup.”
We’ve been investors in FullContact for about 18 months. They’ve got a real business at this point, are growing very fast, and working hard on their mission of creating One Address Book To Rule Them All. If you haven’t tried FullContact’s Address Book, you are missing out. The magic feature of “unified contacts” that they’ve been working on for over a year is up, running, and amazing.
Cobook is a perfect acquisition for us. The Cobook team has developed beautiful Mac and iOS address books. We’ve admired them for a while and decided a few months ago to join forces to have them accelerate our development on other platforms. The full team is moving from Latvia to Denver and is already hard at work integrating FullContact and Cobook.
If you’ve been watching what the companies I’m involved are up to, you saw this move in November when Yesware bought Attachments.me. And you’ll see it from companies I’m involved in again, and again, and again.
When I saw this graph I was hooked. If you are a Twitter user and you don’t use Followerwonk, go try it now – I’ll be here when you return.
Yesterday, SEOmoz announced that it had acquired Followerwonk. The acquisition closed about six weeks ago and the Followerwonk product has been fully integrated into SEOmoz. And the Followerwonk team is now fully part of the SEOmoz team. And it’s awesome.
Rand Fishkin (SEOmoz’s CEO) blogs openly about how the deal happened. It’s instructive for anyone in a startup – either one that is acquiring someone else or being acquired.
If you know me, or have worked with me, you’ll recognize this as a common part of my startup playbook. I think it’s incredibly powerful to accelerate the growth of a company via targeted acquisitions. Fred Wilson once referred to this as a “venture rollup” which, while many are allergic to the word “rollup”, is probably as good a label as any for this. Another recent example from my world just to see what I mean is Rally Software’s acquisition of Agile Advantage.
Doing this well is hard. I’ve been fortunate to work with several amazing CEOs who I’ve learned a lot about how to do this with, including Matt Blumberg (Return Path), Tim Miller (Rally), Mark Pincus (Zynga), and JB Holston (NewsGator). And I learned the basis of everything I know about acquisitions from Len Fassler and Jerry Poch, who acquired my first company. Each has used the strategy skillfully and effectively.
I think Rand, who is using this strategy as part of continuing to build out SEOmoz, is going to be a master at it. If you read his post carefully, you’ll see that he has immense respect for the people behind Followerwork. His behavior pre-deal is consistent with his values and signals his behavior post deal. The entire company embraced Followerwonk and made them part of the SEOmoz gang immediately. He, and the entire team extended trust up front, unambiguously, and without hesitation or reservation.
Peter, Marc, and Galen – welcome to the team!
Today one of our portfolio companies BigDoor announced the acquisition of San Francisco-based OneTrueFan, a community and web check-in company. We invested in BigDoor a little over a year ago and they’ve made amazing progress on their gamified loyalty platform since then. In addition to having over 300 live customers, BigDoor is also conducting a private beta of a truly innovative solution that they call the Engagement Economy, and we expect it have long lasting implications on how the digital world engages and monetizes their audiences.
Recently the market demand has been outpacing their ability to keep up, so they turned to OneTrueFan as a means of accelerating their product development and overall growth. When there is a great fit, I love seeing our portfolio companies make acquisitions. In this case, BigDoor gains access to a team of incredibly talented entrepreneurs (led OneTrueFan co-founders Eric Marcoullier and Todd Samson), thousands of publishers, and tech that fits perfectly into BigDoor’s gamified loyalty platform.
The former OneTrueFan team will be primarily focused on building and running a BigDoor branded rewards program that is targeted to long tail and medium size web publishers. When they launch BigDoor Rewards next month, it will carry with it many of the same characteristics publishers loved from OneTrueFan; brain-dead simple to implement, great analytics, increased content sharing, and far more user engagement. Shortly thereafter BigDoor will be taking the wraps off of their Engagement Economy private beta, and making it publicly available to larger publishers and online communities.
Todd and Eric have been friends of mine for a long time. Between the two of them they have co-founded IGN.com (IPO in 2000, acquired by NewsCorp in 2005), MyBlogLog (acquired by Yahoo in ’07) and Gnip (which I’m an investor in). Needless to say, I’m excited to see what happens as they join the BigDoor team.
I love when companies I’m an investor in use acquisitions to build out their product line. In April Rally Software did one when they acquired AgileZen; yesterday they announced that Rally Software has acquired the ScrumAway iPhone app from Blue Hole Software.
Rally has re-released the product (previous a $15 download) as a free product called Rally for the iPhone that tightly integrates with the Rally SaaS-based Agile software lifecycle environment. If you are a Rally customer, this is a no-brainer app for you; if you aren’t a Rally customer but are an Agile development shop that also has a bunch of iPhone users, take a look at Rally’s products.
And – if you are an entrepreneur running a company that you think fits with any of the companies I’m an investor in, don’t ever hesitate to drop me an email to explore things.
Another TechStars company has been acquired. Well – part of it has been acquired. Today it was announced that eBay has acquired the RedLaser product from Occipital. The Occipital guys tell the story in their post titled Arrival at the Launchpad.
Occipital’s founders – Jeff and Vikas – are the epitome of bootstrap entrepreneurs. Every TechStars class seems to have one and Occipital wins the bootstrapper of TechStars Boulder 2008 award. At the end of the program they had a few chances to raise money but weren’t happy with the valuations so decided to hunker down and just bootstrap things. They reinvented themselves several times until they launched RedLaser which has been a runaway hit (over two million copies sold to date.) As RedLaser took off, they had another set of interesting investment offers but no longer have any need for outside capital.
While they were on their way to creating an interesting mobile ecommerce company, they wanted to work on a much bigger set of technical challenges than RedLaser in computer vision and augmented reality, their areas of passion and technical expertise. In their travels they had a few inquires for an acquisition of the company, but really only wanted to sell the RedLaser product, not the entire company. Fortunately, eBay was very interested in the RedLaser product and the match worked extremely well for both parties.
Given this sale, I expect Occipital is now a long way from ever raising outside capital. Jeff and Vikas are now extremely well funded, are scaling up a very interesting team, and going after a huge vision. Oh – and RedLaser is now free in the iPhone AppStore. Congrats to Occipital, Vikas and Jeff!