Episerver Acquisition Marks Huge Investment in Digital Experience
There has been great momentum surrounding Episerver the past few years but if anyone thought it would slow after they coined 2017 their ‘Year of Hyper Growth’ they were mistaken. Yesterday, Episerver announced they had reached an agreement to be acquired by Insight Venture Partners at a valuation of USD $1.16 billion.
The global private equity firm, based in New York, specializes in high-growth investments in the technology sector and obviously recognizes the potential Episerver can offer. Deven Parekh, Managing Director at Insight Venture Partners comments: “Episerver is at the center of a global digital transformation market that IDC expects to reach $1.7 trillion through 2019 and is expertly helping businesses of all sizes to digitize, optimize and personalize customer experiences. As a firm that specializes in partnering with innovative software companies we’ve made a significant commitment to accelerate growth. Episerver is the perfect addition to our portfolio, and we look forward to working with the talented team on the next phase of this incredible opportunity.”
In the press release, Episerver notes this transaction will bolster their global growth strategy by accelerating their product innovation, go-to-market sales & marketing initiatives as well as enhance their efforts to bring more awareness to the brand in every category its holistic digital experience platform fits into. To gain exclusive insight on this, I was fortunate to speak with James Norwood, CMO and EVP of Strategy at Episerver.
Enhanced Product Strategy
When CMS-Connected attended Episerver Ascend in March of this year, we were able to gain a deep understanding of their perspective on both digital experience, commerce and customer strategy while in conversation with a handful of the executives on site including James. Their history as a WCM company definitely places them out in front of understanding the content needs in driving the overall digital experience, as well as the way in which they can leverage data and business intelligence across capabilities. Interestingly enough, it may be their timely additions to the product in their journey from WCM to digital experience platform that has kept it seamless and rather uncomplicated.
While in conversation with one of Episerver’s exclusive partners about the common digital difficulties he often found his clients facing, I heard a great commendation on the platform saying that unlike other digital experience platforms, Episerver didn’t overwhelm users with every feature under the sun. Instead, “you really see Episerver making good on the promises as far as their roadmap is concerned.” This is a reflection of how they very much perfect the capabilities essential to the process, make them accessible to brands and ensure everything works together so the platform can function really well as the sum of its parts.
With this in mind, I asked James if this announcement means product investment will further focus on the existing features, or will it open up an exponential growth for the platform?
"That’s right, it will for the most part be 'more of the same.' We’ve built a wide platform already and our job now is to tell the world about it and get customers to use more of it. This investment will however allow us to accelerate our roadmap, and in many cases that will mean adding more planned features to some of our newer products like Personalized Find, Insight and Advance. Demand for them has outstripped our initial expectations, so now we need to “mature” them. However, we’re also half way to a fully multi-tenant micro-services architecture and we expect to finish that next year now. Therefore, it’s a balance of continued enhancements and strategic development. Of course, additional M&A remains an option."
North American Market Potential
As I mentioned above, a particular focus for Episerver as they embark on this new chapter is a specific desire to enhance brand awareness and presence in the North American market specifically. This brought to mind a recent comment I read while researching Episerver’s placement in the latest release of the Gartner MQ for WCM.
For the fourth year in a row Episerver was placed in the coveted Leader quadrant, with a strength of the platform being a very business-minded focus in relation to the product strategy, which remains in contrast to others that seem more highly technology-driven. When I saw as part of the acquisition announcement that Episerver was looking to innovate on their product by ramping up R&D efforts, I was curious if the characteristic mentioned above would remain true as they pushed their way even more into the North American market and which business needs specific to that region would drive their product strategy?
“Episerver focuses on the upper mid-market and on divisions and subsidiaries of the enterprise. These organizations are running fast, growing, disrupting and sometimes re-inventing as digital businesses. Our way to help is to assist our customers with their digital maturity so they can elevate the level of customer experience they provide. Gartner gives us credit for providing prescriptive business solutions versus talking technology. We’ve pre-packaged and pre-integrated our products into a series of go-to-market bundles that address specific business needs, like “experience-driven commerce,” and that resonates better with customers than just talking technology. North America is our largest and fastest growing region today, but we still feel we are just scratching the surface. Gartner will say they still see too many projects, where Episerver would be the best fit, but we’re not on the shortlist. We’re excited about the partnership with Insight because they’re very growth oriented and want to help us take our sales and marketing to the next level.”
Turning up the ‘Brand Dial’
Being a marketer in this space and working with so many platforms of various offerings, the intricacies of a vendor’s brand messaging and marketing strategy is the first knowledge to arrive let’s just say as I work to take in the whole picture of the business. As far as Episerver’s marketing goes, it has always seemed to be very customer-centric with a great transparency in showcasing tangible results and enlightening case studies shared in conversation with real, well-known brands that use the platform. Brands everywhere are realizing the value of this as customers bring with them a great perspective on a product or service. Even beyond in-depth case studies, brief comments can say a lot.
For example, before speaking with Marcus Jones, Head of Digital Governance at Mazda Motor Corporation, a customer of Episerver, I had no idea the hands-on approach they took with their clients: “The ongoing communication we have with Episerver allows us to understand that the products and services they provide us as a business is fit for purpose, it has to be relevant to us so we are always impressed about the information and the content that is shared and the discussions that we have with Episerver.”
Or, how I discovered in speaking with Episerver customer, Tony Ellis, VP of Information Technology at Topper’s Pizza the budgetary savings having a reliable Digital Experience Cloud product could offer: “we wanted a platform that had a really good managed cloud experience so we decided to move forward with the DXC platform because I didn’t really want to hire security professionals, I didn’t want to have to manage servers, and all those weird compliance check-boxes somebody else can just take care of. So that was great, helped me keep my team really lean and move forward with something that’s going to make a lot of sense for us.”
In a way their customer focus with marketing brings a fresh kind of brand advocacy to the DXP market so I asked James if this recent investment would mean an acceleration of a similar kind of strategy or will there be a change to their approach?
“Yes, we want to continue to tell our story through our customers and all of the great things they do with our platform. Episerver is not the only answer, but we are a key resource that our customers can use to achieve their objectives faster. If anything, we feel this investment will allow us to tell more stories and have them seen and heard by more people, and that will benefit our brand awareness. We still like it that we’re seen as the cool kid on the block but it’s now time for us to be a household name. We’ve worked tremendously hard over the last four years to build a strong company and a great resource for our customers, and now with Insight behind us we expect to turn the branding dial.”
This acquisition of Episerver by Insight Venture Partners marks a huge investment in the digital experience market. The pace of innovation on what is offered to brands is staggering in every respect, and with voice and IoT being examples of just two touchpoints that have yet to reach their inflection point for use in both B2B and B2C, they're only two of the many more I don’t have character limit to even begin to list.
As we see with yesterday’s announcement and many others in the last year, the potentiality of this market is drawing a crowd of investors that want to connect with those who are innovating and prepared to accommodate the trends and needs even yet to be named for digital experience, consolidating investment, strategy and expertise to accelerate market growth.
We will definitely be offering more commentary as this new chapter for Episerver unfolds and I am excited to see where they go from here. They have always offered a great transparency, never rested on their laurels with the same old offerings and have a keen understanding of what businesses need from content management, commerce, marketing and just overall digital experience products.