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Any tea leaves in the latest round of acquisitions and sales?

tea leavesRemember any tea leaves from the summer of 2019? It seemed like every programmatic vendor out there was being acquired: Appcast, ClickIQ, Perengo – if there was programmatic in your offering, someone was interested in buying it. Then things calmed down a bit and the acquisitions in our industry took a breather – for a few weeks.

But then we saw another round of acquisitions, starting with IAC’s purchase of NurseFly and Eurofirm’s purchase of CornerJob in August. Next, JobAndTalent acquired a couple of recruiting businesses, and Grupa Pracuj sold Emploi. Things calmed down somewhat at the end of the year – no doubt as both buyers and sellers assessed their relative positions for 2020. (And please note – the activity I’m listing here is not exhaustive – I know I miss some of the deals along the way!).

Then the new year started with BISNOW Media buying the long-established SelectLeaders, a job board for for real estate professionals. A few weeks later the German company Intermedia bought Get In GmbH, and a few weeks after that En-Japan purchased the IT freelancer marketplace Brocante.

Interestingly enough – although not a surprise – CareerBuilder was at the same time selling off yet another piece of itself. This time, it sold its background screen service (called, amazing enough, CareerBuilder Employment Screening) to Accurate Background. It kind of makes you wonder what will be left of the company by the end of the year!

So what – if anything – to make of this steady rumble of activity? First: if you’re an established niche job board with a solid business, there are still interested buyers. In SelectLeader’s case, their suitor was “the largest commercial real estate digital media and live events platform in North America and the United Kingdom” – in other words, a natural fit. I suspect BISNOW decided it was easier to acquire an established job board than create one from scratch. When you have these types of ‘natural fits’, finding the sweet spot for the price is critical – too high and the buyer will say, ‘the heck with it, I’ll build my own’; too low, and the seller says ‘not worth giving up my current revenue streams’.

Second: Rapid growth coupled with ‘gig’ cred will attract a buyer. CornerJob raised $57M in four rounds, expanded rapidly from Italy into Spain, Mexico, and France. The human resources company Eurofirms saw a fit – probably impressed with CornerJob’s ability to attract a million monthly users. In other words – a well-executed business plan plus the ability to attract the funding for rapid growth equaled a (relatively) quick exit.

Third: Marketplaces and freelancers continue to be popular. Mix those with IT folks, and you (may) have a winner – at least it worked for Brocante. The catch for this is that lots of people have had the same idea: ‘Hey! How about a freelancer marketplace for IT professionals?’. In other words: these sites have lots of competition. Another complication: the tech talent market is tight. Too many employers chasing not enough workers.

I have no doubt that there are deals in the making right now that will surprise and shock me (and if you have rumors, please feel free to email!). That’s ok – in addition to spring, I have those to look forward to! All I can say is – read the tea leaves.

(PS: If you’re interested in the financial side of job boards, check out the Jobg8 Summit this year – they’ll have a panel of investors discussing what they look for in job boards and recruiting sites!).

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