Business Description: DriversEd.com is the leader in the online drivers education market with a suite of drivers safety education websites and courses that satisfy state-mandated requirements for adults and teens. The company was a pioneer in the online drivers ed market and grew to offer a variety of driver safety and driver training courses in 20 states.
Our Involvement: Ion Partners was engaged to assist the shareholders in considering strategic alternatives for the business in connection with the prospective retirement of two of the three founders. After conducting a discrete buyer survey and valuation analysis, we recommended a phased M&A solicitation to strategic and financial buyers to uncover the best fit for the DriversEd.com business and maximize shareholder value.
Our Value-Add: DriversEd.com had developed the leading online brand in the market due to its pioneering status, powerful marketing programs, and strong government relations. In addition, the company had established an innovative driving school to satisfy “behind the wheel” requirements for graduates of its online courses. Based on these factors and our earlier buyer survey, we were confident that a targeted solicitation of potential buyers would create a competitive bidding process that would lead to the best possible terms for DriversEd.com’s shareholders.
We contacted a variety of financial and strategic buyers and arranged an extensive roadshow for management. After attaining multiple attractive bids for the company, we entered into negotiations with I Drive Safely (“IDS”), a nationwide provider of defensive driving courses backed by CIP Capital. Combining the DriversEd.com business with IDS offered the prospect of a broad suite of driver safety course offerings, a complete exit for two of the founders, and a partial exit and attractive senior management role for the continuing founder. An attractive cash-and-stock transaction was concluded. The combined company is now known as eDriving.
Engineering Dynamics Inc.
Business Description: Engineering Dynamics, Inc. (“EDI”) is a leading provider of engineering software. Its SACS® structural analysis software suite is used globally in the design and maintenance of large, complex facilities for the petroleum industry, primarily offshore oil platforms and wind farms. Virtually all energy companies worldwide specify SACS® for use by their engineering design firms.
Our Involvement: The co-founders were seeking a new owner for the business in connection with their prospective retirements, and our team was engaged to advise on the sale of the company. We recommended an M&A solicitation to strategic and financial buyers to uncover the best fit for EDI’s business and to attain the best possible transaction terms.
Our Value-Add: EDI had built a highly profitable business with dominant market share in the offshore oil platform segment and had attractive growth prospects in the floating oil platform and offshore wind farm market segments. Due to the company’s strong market presence and impressive global reseller network, along with positive trends in world energy markets, we believed there would be broad interest among buyers and that a sale to a larger software provider would maximize shareholder value.
We contacted multiple strategic buyers in the in the US and Europe, both public and private. Despite temporary concerns by some buyers related to the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, we elicited multiple attractive bids for our client. EDI selected Bentley Systems, a large provider of comprehensive technical software solutions for sustaining infrastructure as the best long-term fit for the SACS® business in an attractive cash transaction.
Business Description: Aramova is a leading provider of critical software and solutions that allow communication service providers to deliver mobile data connectivity across diverse networks and devices.
Our Involvement: Our team was engaged to advise the company on a potential sale of the company. We recommended that the company seek a sale or merger with a strategic partner that would position the company for future growth in this rapidly evolving market.
Our Value-Add: Aramova had built a profitable business providing mobile connectivity software and solutions to communications service providers, predominantly in Europe, but needed to enhance its sales and marketing resources in order to penetrate its target client base. In addition, with the ongoing consolidation of the connection management space, Aramova perceived a significant benefit from combining its product portfolio with that of another leading provider in order to expand its market presence.
Our process included a review of strategic buyers in the industry and a targeted solicitation to develop interest in a potential transaction. Multiple bidders emerged from this process and we assisted Aramova’s management team in negotiating competing offers and structuring the best possible transaction. Management ultimately positioned Aramova’s business for substantial growth as part of its new parent, Oslo-based Birdstep Technology, while generating attractive returns for shareholders. The transaction resulted in corporate and geographic synergies and all the members of Aramova’s management team accepted leadership positions at Birdstep.
Business Description: BookFinder.com is the leading online comparison shopping service and search engine for new, used, out of print, and international books. Founded in 1996 in Berkeley, California, BookFinder.com has the largest searchable book inventory available online or offline, with over 100 million books available for sale.
Our Involvement: Our team was engaged by BookFinder.com to advise the company on a potential sale that would accelerate the company’s growth and help maintain its leadership in the industry.
Our Value-Add: When our team was introduced to BookFinder.com, the company had been approached by a large, well-known Internet search company regarding a potential transaction. We initially discussed with management the company’s strategic objectives and subsequently put into place a disciplined sale process. We were able to identify strategic buyers in the bookseller space, as well as in the online price comparison space. Our team arranged meetings with the most interested buyers, including Abebooks, another major online bookseller. We led negotiation discussions that concluded with the successful acquisition of BookFinder.com by Abebooks at a premium valuation. As part of the transaction, management assumed senior positions in the new, combined entity.