Following the announcement that Spark's acquired Ubiquity to merge it with Qrious, we chat with Ubiquity co-founder Nathalie Morris about taking up the offer, letting the business grow to the next level and what it means for herself and client.
How did the acquisition come about?
We realised that for Ubiquity to compete against the global marketing automation companies we needed a serious investment in development, as well as sales and marketing. And to continue to be world class, we also needed to build out our capabilities in analytics and machine learning.
We explored various options, which included seeking funding, as well as selling the business. As part of our investigation into these options, we created a shortlist of potential acquirers. At the very top of the list was Spark Ventures (the Spark in-house incubator which developed Qrious amongst others). When we approached Spark Ventures they immediately recognised the significant synergies and how complementary the Qrious and Ubiquity businesses would be, and it all progressed from there.
Have you been offered buyout opportunities in the past?
Over the 17 years Ubiquity has been in business we have had a number of approaches, but we never felt comfortable that they would be able to take the business to the next level. Spark, along with Qrious, is absolutely the best company to be able to do this.
Why did you take up the Spark offer?
As we learned more about the Qrious business, we increasingly formed the view that the sum of the two parts was going to deliver significantly more value to clients than the individual pieces. If we were going to sell, it was important to us that the platform and clients would be well looked after with ongoing investment in platform development.
Similarly, we wanted to ensure that the staff would be well looked after. We have the pleasure of working with an incredible team who are extremely dedicated to client success, so it was important to us that they were going to a good home. I think that both the Qrious and Ubiquity management teams have been pleasantly surprised by how similar our organisations are from a cultural perspective.
Will there be any differences for Ubiquity clients?
In the short term, it will be very much business as usual. Our aim is to ensure we continue to offer great service to Ubiquity clients.
However, we think that the acquisition provides great opportunities for clients. Combining digital marketing expertise with data-driven intelligence has the power to transform organisations by driving smarter and more personalised digital engagement with their customers.
For Ubiquity clients, the acquisition will give them access to more powerful analytics and reporting solutions. Qrious are also planning to invest heavily in the development of the Engage platform, accelerating the delivery of new functionality to clients, and developing a world-class marketing automation and analytics solution. And there are some exciting opportunities to deliver clients new product offerings based on Qrious’ products and services and access to unique data sources.
By combining the solutions and expertise of both Qrious and Ubiquity we are able to serve our customers even better and meet the changing needs of a rapidly evolving industry.
How do you feel about the business you’ve built from scratch being acquired by Spark?
17 years is a long time, and the business has been a huge part of our lives. But it felt like we’d taken it as far as we could as private owners. I suppose it’s like a teenager leaving home – slightly sad, but excited about what it means for the business to be able to grow to the next level.
How have you managed to carve out a space of your own with Ubiquity to compete against big international companies offering a similar service?
The Engage platform has the advantage of having been developed as a tightly integrated platform meaning that the various components fit together nicely, whereas many of the international platforms that have grown through acquisition can be clunky. We’ve also put a lot of energy into ensuring that the platform lives up to the promise of being easy to use by a non-technical marketer. This is often not the case for our competitors which have so much complexity that the platform can take months or even years to implement and require considerable training to use.
And perhaps most importantly, Ubiquity offers not only the platform but the full range of services to help our clients get value from this – from strategic consulting to integration to campaign execution. Marketing teams in New Zealand are often too small to employ marketing automation experts, and even for those who can afford specialists, New Zealand just doesn’t really have the talent pool. Ubiquity fills this gap with our consulting services. We’re the only provider in New Zealand that has both the software platform and the services to help our clients get value from their marketing automation investment.
What will your role be when Ubiquity merges into Qrious?
As head of Ubiquity I’ll continue to work closely with clients and prospects to ensure that we’re delivering great solutions that deliver value from their marketing automation investment. I’ll work closely with the rest of the 'Data Powered Marketing team' within Qrious to ensure that customer requirements, industry trends and technical innovations are incorporated into the Ubiquity platform roadmap and that the platform is world class.
I’m excited to step into this role as the Qrious expertise and significant investment in the platform will be fantastic for our clients.
Guy Bibby (co-founder) is going to take some time out travelling while exploring his next entrepreneurial venture.
Do you have any advice for people who would like to create a start-up in the marketing technology space?
In our experience, it is a marathon, not a sprint. It takes a long time to be an overnight success.
With technology, the pace of change is phenomenal. You have to be prepared to adapt and pivot constantly.
And if you surround yourself with great people and create a great organisational culture, this will deliver clients and ultimately lead to your success. We’d like to thank all of the staff and clients who have supported us on our journey so far and look forward to taking this next step together.