“Adapt and optimize” was the unspoken mandate for most businesses in 2020. It made obvious sense to redirect focus and energy into protecting what companies already had and safeguard their business operations. However, companies cannot stop there. In the thick of the pandemic last year, Straive (formerly SPi Global) acquired LearningMate, one of the most crucial acquisitions for the company in many ways. It is easy to pat oneself on the back for being brave, especially in hindsight. But was it all courage on our part? The likely answer would be a no. The pandemic merely accelerated the pace at which we embraced e-reality.
We have always evaluated the quality of growth before participating in an acquisition process. In this instance, however, we did not have to contemplate the added value that customers would get with LearningMate. Instead, the growth was an organic response to the times.
Also, we were \scouting around for a capability acquisition that would help to harness the rapid developments in the E-Learning space and complement content capabilities and make it an end-to-end solution provider in EdTech. LearningMate’s strong credentials made it our obvious choice.
Going uphill was a willing choice. No matter how tried and tested the processes were, there was no way to guesstimate the long-term turnouts of the acquisition. However, what was clear was that LearningMate had a technology-based offering that the world would be very interested in the post-Covid-19 future. For Straive, this was definitely a plus.
So, what worked? One of the vital areas of our focus, especially since the Partners Group came on board in 2017, has been to align a robust M&A strategy with the company’s vision. As part of the exhaustive exercise to roadmap a long-term strategy, a tailor-made acquisition strategy aligned with our three key business verticals. Every decision to ‘buy’ was backed by a ‘build vs. buy’ analysis and supported by Straive’s acquisition plan.
Therefore, the acquisition of LearningMate was an informed decision to meet the specific strategic objectives of the E-Learning & Digital Content vertical. A lot of the groundwork had already been done before the pandemic outbreak. The choice was to pause or move ahead on the road already chartered.
In a way, the pandemic also worked in our favor. It hastened the process of the company’s digital transformation, which was already becoming a business necessity. It also opened up the market for us by necessitating the adoption of digital technology for businesses engaged. Throughout the acquisition process, the company maintained a stream of clear and direct communication with all stakeholders. There was absolutely no need for the stress of uncertainty to slow down a process already cruising upstream.
We missed ‘getting together in one room’ and ‘talking it out,’ which added complexity. Usually, the trick is to spend as much time as possible with the teams to put an objective metric around the culture match. Unfortunately, no one seems to have figured out a way of making up for it. But then, that is the state of things anyway.
For Straive, courage is not always about choosing to do things differently. Rather it is about continuing to do what was being done and believing in it even in the face of adversity. As a company, we have always chose growth over shrinking. There will always be this constant paranoia of losing business to disruptions. The idea is to stay rooted in the corporate DNA.
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