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WhatCounts Acquires Blue Sky Factory

  |  July 11, 2011   |  Comments

Atlanta-based email marketing company acquires Blue Sky for its social-email integration.

WhatCounts, an Atlanta-based email marketing company, has acquired Blue Sky Factory, an email marketing service provider and consulting firm known for its social savvy, the companies announced today.

bluesky-whatcounts"They have some awesome technology integrating social and email. They also have fully integrated social media into their own business, using social media channels to generate new leads and share thought leadership," said WhatCounts President and founder Allen Nance, in a telephone interview. WhatCounts has more than 100 employees; the Baltimore-based Blue Sky has more than 27.

"It became clear that Allen Nance and I see the market the same - everything is moving toward multi-channel messaging. Our product roadmaps are identical," Blue Sky CEO Greg Cangialosi said in a phone interview. Cangialosi, who founded Blue Sky Factory in 2001, will serve on WhatCounts' board and work as a product strategy consultant for the combined companies.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

"[Blue Sky Factory] BSF has been stronger in integrating social than many of its peers and has a strong management team," observed Simms Jenkins, CEO of BrightWave Marketing, a digital marketing consultancy in Atlanta, in an email interview. "WhatCounts is clearly pursuing its consolidation strategy in the email industry and has become a serious player through this roll-up strategy," he added.

The roll-up began in November 2009, when The Mansell Group acquired Premiere Global Services. One year later, in December 2010, it bought WhatCounts and later took its name.

"WhatCounts is executing both an organic growth as well as M&A strategy as we feel the email marketing industry is consolidating. We want to take advantage of opportunities to grow by acquiring great companies," Agatha Niedzwiecki, WhatCounts marketing manager, said in an email interview. "Blue Sky Factory is strategically located in the Mid-Atlantic (Baltimore) giving us a presence...to support our growing Washington D.C. client roster."

What does Blue Sky Factory get from the deal? "For Blue Sky Factory, I think they were in a very competitive sector of the market and it was likely an attractive time to sell to a bigger and better capitalized company, like WhatCounts," Jenkins said. "Like any merger, how the business and more importantly, its clients, are integrated is the challenge and most important piece of the puzzle."

Cangialosi said the deal gives the Blue Sky team access to software development talent. "This gives us the powerhouse development team we're looking for," he said. For instance, WhatCounts email software is integrated with Salesforce.com, something that Blue Sky customers have been seeking.

At least one high-profile member of the Blue Sky Factory team will not be headed to WhatCounts. D.J. Waldow, the company's Utah-based director of community (aka Social Butterfly Guy) said on LinkedIn that he's looking for a new job.

"We were bummed about that," Cangialosi said. Because WhatCounts is based in Atlanta, it wanted to centralize some roles there, he said. "Some things you are in control of, others you're not."

WhatCounts will support Blue Sky email platform through 2012. During the later half of 2012, Nance said WhatCounts plans to roll out consolidated technology to Blue Sky and WhatCounts customers.

WhatCounts customers includes Virgin America and AARP; Blue Sky customers include LiveNation and Strayer University.

Nance predicted that email service providers will continue to consolidate in coming years. Combining Blue Sky and WhatCounts, he said, positions the company to compete against larger rivals.

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Anna Maria Virzi

Anna Maria Virzi, ClickZ's executive editor from 2007 until 2012, covered Internet business and technology since 1996. She was on the launch team for Ziff Davis Media's Baseline and also worked at Forbes.com, Web Week, Internet World, and the Connecticut Post.

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