New UBM Channel Event Pairs Solution Providers With M&A Funding12:24 PM EST Fri. May. 03, 2013
UBM Channel is teaming up with M&A advisory MartinWolf and consultancy Grant Thorton to host a series of events aimed at helping solution providers find potential buyers and investors for their businesses.
The first event in the series, focused specifically on solution providers and investors in the cloud, managed services and Software-as-a-Service space, will take place June 11-12 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York.
The event, along with others in the series, leverages the same model MartinWolf has used since 1998 for its Global IT M&A Forums. The model involves solution providers having their own private suites where they can meet with a number of potential buyers or investors in 50-minute periods throughout the course of one day. Solution providers are guaranteed at least four private meetings.
Tim Mueller, principal at MartinWolf, likened the model to speed dating. He said the idea is that, throughout the course of those 50-minute meetings, solution providers and potential investors get a sense of what they're looking for in one another, and a taste of what their potential partnership could look like. These face-to-face meetings, Mueller said, are really what set MartinWolf and UBM Channel's M&A events apart from the rest.
"If you look online, you see the words 'M&A Forum' come up hundreds of times," Mueller said. "But I think the real differentiator for this one is that no one else, over a 24-hour span, will bring in buyers and sellers in this type of format."
Lisa Mackenzie, senior vice president of events for UBM Channel, said UBM Channel's new alliance with MartinWolf is the "perfect partnership" for helping solution providers grow and evolve their cloud businesses.
"Solution providers are telling us this is something important to them," Mackenzie said. "They want to understand what their cloud business is worth, they want to acquire cloud businesses, and they want to raise capital so they can help transition their businesses. We want to be the facilitators of that."
UBM Channel's teaming up with MartinWolf seems like a solid way to start that process. Since its founding in 1997, MartinWolf has helped drive more than $400 million in acquisitions and private-equity investments through its M&A Forums alone.
According to Mueller, much of that success has stemmed from the forums' exclusivity. The numbers of solution providers -- or "sellers" -- that can participate in each forum is limited to 20, and Mueller said there's a vetting process for determining who can attend. In order to participate, for instance, solution providers must demonstrate an enterprise value greater than $20 million based on current market comps.
Solution providers also must demonstrate their relevance to the specific technology being focused on during each forum. To participate in the event in June, for instance, solution providers must be providing cloud services, managed services, or Software-as-a-Service offerings to their customers.
Participating buyers face a similar vetting process. Each event is capped at 40 qualified buyers or private equity firms who can demonstrate, beforehand, that they have the financial means to actually complete a deal.
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While rigorous, Mueller said these vetting processes ensure a "very high" percentage of solution providers actually pen a deal based on their forum meetings. Out of the 15 to 20 solution providers typically participating, between two and five of them, on average, will partner with an investor, Mueller said.
"The transaction could range from a private equity making an investment in one of the companies, all the way to either a strategic buyer or private equity buyer doing a transaction to get full control of the company," Mueller said.
Mueller said solution providers attending the forum also can choose to attend a Bootcamp prior to their investor meetings, where they receive resources like preparation checklists for their one-on-ones, presentation templates, and a list of questions frequently asked by investors.
Kirk Shroyer, a former solution provider who now oversees his own advisory firm called Kirk Shroyer Consulting and Investments, attended one of MartinWolf's M&A Forums back in 2000. Shroyer's company at the time, Security Portal, struck a deal at the event to be acquired by Sarcom, another solution provider, in what ultimately amounted to be a roughly $5 million deal.
Shroyer called the one-on-one format of the M&A Forum "unique and highly proven," and said he would urge other solution providers and entrepreneurs to attend, especially given the complexity of managing M&A deals on their own.
"It's not for the faint of heart," Shroyer said of navigating potential M&As. "This is a very good stepping stone in that direction and, as far as I'm concerned, with MartinWolf and the team behind [attendees], they're in good hands."
Mueller noted the timeliness of next month's cloud-focused M&A Forum, given all the buzz around cloud services today and the rising value of solution providers playing in the space.
"What we see is that there are cycles for maximum valuation of these companies. At this time, in particular, the cloud services space is seeing some very strong multiples of valuation," Mueller said. "There are windows that open and close, and we feel like it's a peak time for these companies."
Software-as-a-Service companies also are reaching their peak, Mueller said, with their median valuations projected to reach as high as 4.5 times their revenue.
In addition to the forum in June, Mueller said there will be another M&A Forum this September in San Francisco focused on general IT services, such as system integration.
PUBLISHED MAY 3, 2013