Thrive’s Acquisitive MSP Strategy Jelling With Custard Technical Buy

‘It’s the wild, wild West in terms of managed services and managed security services,’ says CEO Rob Stephenson after his firm’s acquisition of U.K. firm Custard Technical Services.


Fast-growing Thrive has acquired its fifth managed services provider in 2022, this time Custard Technical Services, an IT support firm based in Nottingham, England.

And Rob Stephenson, chief executive of Foxborough, Mass.-based Thrive, said there’s a good chance his MSP could squeeze in another acquisition this year.

“We’re talking to several companies right now,” he said in an interview with CRN. “I think we could possibly get one done by the end of the year. … If we don’t get something under agreement in the next two weeks, it probably would push (a deal) into next year. But we are very close with a couple of companies.”

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Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Backed by private-equity firms Court Square Capital in New York and MC Partners in Boston, Thrive, which calls itself a “cloud-first and security-first” managed services provider, has acquired 17 MSPs over the past six years, growing its workforce to more than 1,000 employees based in the U.S., U.K., Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, and the Philippines.

“It‘s the wild, wild West in terms of managed services and managed security services,” Stephenson said of the current state of his industry. “Essentially, this managed services space business is really probably only in the second or third inning in its cycle of evolution and growth and sophistication. I think there’s a long runway here.”

He said he could see his firm possibly tripling in size within the next six to seven years, much of it via acquisitions.

Thrive’s purchase of Custard Technical, which employs nearly 30 people, brings to 200 workers Thrive now has in the U.K, or about 20 percent of Thrive’s overall global workforce.

“Custard gives us a lot of sophistication,” said Stephenson. “They have a nice cloud and data center footprint. They’re a cloud-first company. Their clients, I think, would benefit from Thrive’s security services.”

He said the acquisition also gives Thrive the opportunity to expand into Britain’s Birmingham and Manchester markets, beyond the firm’s past focus largely on the London market.

In a press release, Chris Pass, CEO and co-founder of Custard Technical Services, said Custard and Thrive complement each other.

“We are excited to join Thrive‘s global roster and believe that our proven track record and our top-tier talented professionals will be an excellent complement to expand Thrive’s extensive NextGen portfolio of solutions,” Pass said in the statement.

Thrive has carved a lucrative niche by focusing its expansion of late on the financial services market. “I think we‘re now the largest financial services managed service provider in the world,” said Stephenson.

But he emphasized Thrive is still committed to serving other industries, from health-care to legal services to state/local government agencies.

As for future acquisitions, Stephenson said he’s looking at the international market right now, with potential deals in Canada, Ireland, France, Luxembourg, Germany and the Middle East.

As for the U.S., he said his company will keep pursuing its recent strategy of expanding, via acquisitions, mostly in southeastern states.