In just seven months, George Batsakis and Jared Speigel went from an initial partnership and private equity backer to closing three deals and creating a new middle market player.
In the third transaction announced today, they changed the name of their company from Collabralink to Groundswell, which accepted the moniker of their third acquisition, the Groundswell Consulting Group.
It’s all part of their long -term strategy to build a middle tier player that can deliver leading technologies to government customers, two executives told me in an interview.
When asked why buy Groundswell, Batsakis went back to the beginning to explain their strategy. Batsakis, one of the executives who founded the 1901 Group and sold it to Leidos by the end of 2020, and Speigel, the founder of Phase One, acquired by Accenture Federal Services in 2017, first bought the Telesto Group in support of Washington Harbor Partners in December.
Collabralink Technologies quickly followed that up in January. And now Groundswell.
The result is a mid-tier company with approximately $ 100 million in revenue and skills in low-code/no-code application development, digital transformation and data science.
“When we started it, we had a deliberate thesis about the kind of company we wanted to build,” Batsakis said.
Collabralink and Telesto have brought digital innovation skills around human -centered design, agile and DevSecOps, intelligent automation, and artificial intelligence. The Groundswell piece brings together a company dedicated to Appian, a low-code software development platform, to help federal customers modernize their applications.
“Groundswell brings a leading capability to the market,” Batsakis said. “So, it puts us in a different league.”
Groundswell’s capabilities along with the growing demand for Appian implementations give the company a leadership position in the market, he said. It will compete with larger prime as well as partnering with those companies.
“When we think about what the marketplace is and what our clients really need, they need these technologies, they need functional expertise and they need companies that can do things,” Speigel said.
Batsakis said Appian’s growth in the federal market is similar to the growth experienced by other commercial software companies like ServiceNow. But with one big difference, Appian is in the backyard of the federal government. It is headquartered in Tysons, Virginia.
“You don’t have to get on a plane and meet these people,” he said. “They’re just around the corner and accessible.”
In addition to Groundswell’s expertise, the company also carries a tremendous reputation for delivery as well as a first customer culture that is well paired with Collabralink, he said.
With the acquisition of Groundswell, Batsakis and Speigel felt it was time to rebrand the company. And while other options were discussed, “we really fell in love with the Groundswell name,” Batsakis said.
“You see these movements – the cloud is one, platforms as a service are another, and you have low code and data and AI,” Speigel said. “It’s really this kind of groundswell of energy towards solving problems and using some kind of technology.”
Groundswell has had a great culture like Collabralink and Telesto. Future work brings all of that together, executives said.
“In the world of M&A, we talk about a synergy equation of one-plus-one equal to more than two, and then make a dozen of these deals in my career and be able to acquire a few times as well, rarely it happens that way, ”Batsakis said. “But we treat it as a fusion. We’re trying to set it up for real synergy – revenue synergy, cultural synergy, growth synergy.”
Keeping on board with the founders is an important element of it. Groundswell founders Blake Templeman, Eric Grinnalds and Justin Watts will remain with the company as investors and operating executives.
“We look at other operators who really care about the people they work with within the business and culture and bringing that to market and being a meaningful place to work,” Speigel said.
More of my conversation with Batsakis and Speigel will be available in an upcoming episode of the Project 38 podcast where we dive deeper into the opportunity they see ahead and where they see themselves doing more taking.