Results International has advised We Are Social on its acquisition by BlueFocus

  • Service: M&A
  • Sector: Technology
  • Sub Sector: Digital Marketing
  • Engagement Type: Sell Side
Dec 2013
has been acquired by

We Are Social is the largest and most awarded independent social media agency in the world. Founded just five years ago as a pure-play social media marketing agency with global ambition, it has enjoyed spectacular growth and built an outstanding reputation for its exceptional work.

SITUATION
We were thrilled when We Are Social chose us as their advisers after a competitive pitch in early 2012. Everyone was talking about social media but it was an uncertain market from a shareholder perspective; would ‘social’ actually become a recognised marketing discipline in its own right – perhaps even go on to devour other established marketing disciplines just as digital had consumed the whole landscape in the previous decade – or would it disappear in a puff of hysteria from whence it came? Everyone claimed to ‘do’ social, but there was only one truly specialist player of global scale; We Are Social. Socially-led, built to be social from the ground up and having grown from just the two founders, Robin Grant and Nathan McDonald, to 250 staff in eight offices across the globe in only four years. Amidst the confusion in the market, they had discovered the formula for success based on a completely clear and unswerving vision, brand identity and long term direction of travel. Their need was an adviser who could help them make sense of their opportunity and move at speed with them to unlock it whilst minimising the distractions for them in their mission to put social thinking at the centre of marketing.

OUR BRIEF
The cornerstone of our brief was to guide the founders and their Board through the many options they could consider and myriad complex decisions that lay ahead. Having such a clear vision and drive amongst the Board gave us a clear framework to work within. However, We Are Social’s eight offices were all at differing stages of maturity and this was about creating an option that would work for all as the leadership teams of each office were also significant equity holders.The Board also very clearly understood that signing a deal was just the start of the next chapter and the business had to be in the best possible shape for that next adventure too. Like many exceptionally high growth early stage businesses, front of house was the focus of the Board and the back office simply hadn’t been able to keep pace. The second key pillar of our brief was to ensure that the group operated in a way that it was in the best possible shape to convert the new fuel into accelerated global growth post deal.

OUTCOME
We worked with the Board throughout 2012 to evaluate options and really understand the DNA of the business and the potential of each office, using the Results International teams on the ground in each location as needed. In parallel we advised and supported the Group as it set in place the organisational structure required to run a business that was by then rapidly passing 350 headcount and evolving its offering daily.

We Are Social is unique in being socially-led at scale globally so conforming to the conventional rules of the established marketing services groups was not an option. Being a truly dominant global player also requires a strong presence in the largest internet market in the world, China, which is almost impenetrable from the outside. With many shared clients, a joint ambition for growth at a rate unlike any other established marketing services group and with geographic footprints that matched perfectly, BlueFocus Communication Group was a highly attractive fit from the outset.

During the Spring/Summer of 2013 the leadership teams of both organisations built their relationship and negotiated a highly tailored commercial framework for a partnership that should enable We Are Social – now at over 400 staff – to truly deliver on its vision of putting social thinking at the centre of marketing whilst simultaneously hugely accelerating BlueFocus’ ability to execute on its ambition to grow its revenues 10 times over in the next 10 years through going digital and global, with We Are Social as its lead digital business outside China.

We needed advisors who could offer a genuine understanding of our business, practical experience, rock solid corporate finance knowledge, understanding of our international markets and wide access to the best potential partners. Crucially, we also needed to know they understood us as people and would have the drive and stamina to produce results. From the outset, Results delivered a first class service and we’d recommend them to anyone.

Robin Grant

Global Managing Director, We Are Social

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