Acquisitions / Business / Startups / Year in review

M&A Moves: Baltimore’s biggest tech exits of 2019

From a billion-dollar deal to smaller exits made by Maryland companies, let's look back at the year in local acquisition news.

Inside Paragon Bioservices' facility in Anne Arundel County. (Courtesy photo by Kevin Allen)
The startup world is filled with reminders that where you start often isn’t the destination where you end up.

That comes into full view when considering that for many startups that are deemed successful, their road is ultimately one to an exit.

At the same time, it’s one of the ways a business community can grow a presence of bigger companies. Plenty of recognizable brand names (AOL, Phillips, PayPal) have entered Baltimore over the years as a result of buying local startups.

Those are just a couple of reasons we think it’s worth rounding up the notable acquisitions of the year. In a twist, 2019 also brought plenty of Baltimore companies that became the ones doing the acquiring.

The acquired

An exit that crossed the billion-dollar mark tops this year’s highlights.

Paragon Bioservices was already making some significant news in mid-April when it cut the ribbon on a new building for manufacturing facility for gene therapy treatments near BWI. The governor attended, and there was bold talk of how the company would create hundreds of jobs.

But less than a week later, there was news that will continue to reverberate into the next decade: The University of Maryland BioPark-based company was being acquired by Catalent for $1.2 billion. When all was said and done, it stood as the second-largest exit of a private equity-backed Baltimore company since 2008. And along with a headquarters here, it had Baltimore-based investors in Camden Partners, who invested alongside NewSpring Healthcare Capital in 2014.

Now under the banner of Paragon Gene Therapy, it continued to grow staff. And it picked up some more space with an acquisition of its own, assuming control of manufacturing space owned by Gaithersburg-based Novavax and bringing on 100 employees.

Out of Columbia, regenerative medicine Osiris Therapeutics was acquired for $660 million by London-based Smith & Nephew. It meant Maryland had one less biotech company on the stock exchange, but in turn made the state a beachhead for U.S. expansion plans.

Cybersecurity also proved to be an area with active deal activity. In another exit that carried a big price tag, Hanover-based KeyW was acquired by Dallas-based Jacobs Engineering Group for $815 million. The cybersecurity talent among KeyW’s 1,800 employees was key to the deal.

Data privacy startup TrackOFF sold to cybersecurity company Avast. Upon the deal, then-CEO, now-Avast consumer privacy division head Chandler Givens told the Baltimore Sun, “I don’t think we could have done this if we had started the company outside of Baltimore,” citing a pair of the city’s tech bonafides: affordable cost of living and access to talent.

Out of Bowie, ID Agent was acquired by Kaseya. The deal kept ID Agent’s brand intact after planting a flag in Maryland from D.C. in 2018.

Among fintech companies, Blispay was scooped by Alliance Data Systems. Team members and technology made the jump to the marketing services company a few months after suspending lending of its own.

One deal showed how a partnership can lead to an exit: In October, Hampden-based medical appointment software company Everseat was acquired by Relatient. The two companies were already working together, and Relatient planned to bring investment for new tools.

The acquiring

Notably, this year’s local M&A activity brought plenty of news from Baltimore companies doing the acquiring.

Back in January, Otterbein-based Catalyte expanded to Denver via acquisition, as it brought Statêra Digital into its operation that’s hiring and training software engineering. By the end of the year, company also added Boston to its cities with a center that’s bringing new folks into the tech workforce.

Acquisition was also a means for geographic-level growth at Hanover-based Dragos. In March, the critical infrastructure cybersecurity company acquired Atlanta-based NexDefense and immediately made two tools available for free.

That same month, Allovue brought on a likeminded Maryland compatriot in the move to bring new tools to education finance. The Remington-based company acquired Rockville-based Equiday, bringing an exit for a DC RealLIST Startups 2019 honoree.

Fast-forward to the fall, and Annapolis’ Snag-A-Slip looked to speed its move into the same-day boating reservation space by bringing SlipSure aboard in September. The companies got started around the same time in 2015, and decided to dock together.

To close out the year (barring any last-minute holiday season buys), Columbia-based Tenable deepened its bet on industrial cybersecurity with the acquisition of New York-based Indegy for $78 million. Tenable went public in 2018, and the move only increased its standing as a giant global player that’s based in the area.

Series: M&A Moves

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