Denver-based Four Winds Interactive has grown to date based on a small group of inside-ish investors, but that has changed with news of an Austin, Texas private equity company taking a non-controlling position with the digital signage SMS software company.
The amount and terms of the deal with Vista Equity Partners were not announced. Levin said there are no structural changes and remains in his role. The investment will be used to drive growth, boost sales and marketing (arguably the company already has a much larger sales effort than most of its competitors) and enable acquisitions.
I asked Levin if that meant FWI was going to follow the similar but different paths of Stratacache and Diversified, and many smaller companies, by offering all-encompassing solutions and services. He said No, the plan is to remain a software company. He suggested FWI could be the foundational element of a larger play through complementary companies – something Vista has a pattern of doing with past tech investments that started with one company and added on others via M&A work.
He says Vista approached FW about a year ago, and it was last fall when discussions got serious.
I suggested the company had gone quiet in the last 12-18 months, and Levin said that owed a lot to what happens when a company sells into big Fortune 500 companies. Deals get won and contracts signed, but the vendor is not allowed by the client to talk about it.
Levin also said the company was emerging from a very big push on taking its platform to the cloud – upping its R&D spend by 40 per cent in recent years.
I know absolutely nothing about Vista Equity, but its company portfolio includes a bunch that would have “synergies” with FWI – for things like real-time data and real-time content generation. A quick look at a few company snapshots showed products and services that do things that would nicely dovetail.
For example, a California company has a “SaaS enterprise relationship management solutions for the retail and independent automotive industries. DealerSocket’s platform enables dealerships’ marketing, sales, and automotive service departments to operate more effectively by helping them identify and track actionable sales leads, engage these leads through a number of channels, and streamline the sale, lease, and service booking process. DealerSocket supports over 140,000 active users at more than 3,500 dealerships around the world.”
It doesn’t take a whole bunch of imagination to come up with ways to extract and visualize data from that kind of system, as well as trigger messaging back and front of house at a dealer.
Driven by the rapid adoption of digital signage and the power of FWI’s platform, Vista’s investment signals a significant shift in the digital signage industry and positions FWI to accelerate growth as it delivers industry-leading solutions for enterprises.
With its proprietary, enterprise-grade platform and robust data integrations, FWI is well positioned within the rapidly growing visual communications market, offering an intuitive cloud management interface, a flexible authoring tool, cross-platform support, and a wide range of powerful, vertically-tailored applications. FWI’s solutions provide enterprises with a scalable and secure solution to engage their audiences.
“Since our start in 2005, we’ve built a company that I’m very proud of and we’ve done it without a lot of capital,” said David Levin, Co-Founder and CEO of FWI. “We debated partnering with an investment firm for a while and I feel like now is the right time, and Vista is the right partner. They are a talented team of experienced investors, operators, and technologists who share our vision, understand the importance of a growth strategy, and bring enterprise-scale resources. Vista gives us a tremendous advantage at an exciting time in our industry.”
“We are excited to work with Vista because they share our view that great People Culture and Customer Experience differentiate market-leading companies. Vista has a long-standing track record of investing in best-in-class employee development and customer success programs to help companies get to the next level,” said Margot Moellenberg, President and COO of FWI.
“Thanks to the leadership of David and the entire management team, FWI has built the industry-leading visual communications solution that is uniquely scalable across a broad range of use cases,” said Patrick Severson, Principal at Vista Equity Partners. “We see a lot of momentum in the industry, and we look forward to working alongside the FWI team as the company continues
Dave Haynes is the founder and editor of Sixteen:Nine, an online publication that has followed the digital signage industry for more than 13 years. Dave does strategic advisory consulting work for many end-users and vendors, and also writes for many of them. He’s based near Halifax, Nova Scotia.