Like many stories in the acquisition news canon, this story weaves two interesting narratives into one, unique tapestry.
One centers around a scrappy, bootstrapped analytics firm founded in 2008 by Comcast alum and analytics pioneer Aaron Maass. The other tells of a San Francisco customer experience firm wooed, once again, by Philadelphia’s rich talent pool and strategic location.
Through its acquisition of MaassMedia — a 15-person Center City boutique analytics shop that does work for ESPN, Lenovo and the Flyers — Calif.-based Hero Digital has now added its second Philly beachhead in under eight months, after announcing in September of last year that it acquired Manayunk’s Delphic Digital, now fully integrated under the Hero brand.
No financial details were disclosed from the transaction, but Hero Digital CEO David Kilimnik said all 15 staffers from Maass Media, along with its leadership team, will remain in place. All told, Hero Digital is now a 250-person firm, with close to a hundred of those staffers in Philadelphia.
“We’re focused on helping companies transform their brands through better digital experiences,” Kilimnik told Technical.ly. “In the pursuit of that, the industry needs to be more sophisticated about the use of data in their business. The strategic fit was high because this is what Aaron’s company has been focused on.”
The timing between the Delphic deal and MaassMedia’s acquisition was relatively close, the exec said. Having personal ties in common with Maass and his team, and having worked jointly with clients in the past, the deal began to make more sense for Hero’s leadership, which in 2016 sold a majority stake in the company to CI Capital Partners, a New York-based private equity firm, in a bid to expand its offerings.
Maass, 45, said the company he started out of a roach-infested office in Center City had garnered acquisition interest through the years. Every six months or so, another firm in a similar space would knock on the door.
We want to have a very strong presence in Philadelphia. It's a great place for us to build a full company campus.
“And I never really entertained any of them for a variety of reasons,” said Maass, who officially changed his LinkedIn job title to SVP of Data and Insights. “But when Hero approached me some months ago I was interested in what they had to say because of the leadership team and client portfolio. I don’t often come across agencies like Hero so focused on customer experience and so open to using data to help them accomplish that. A lot of agencies are still trying to grapple with how to make data actionable and Hero really gets it.”
(Consolidation is on the rise among digital firms everywhere and Philly is no exception. Just check the most recent stories we’ve ran regarding mergers and acquisitions.)
We asked Hero’s Kilimnik if the company’s growing Philly outpost could have another growth spurt in the near future.
“We want to have a very strong presence in Philadelphia,” Kilimnick said.”It’s a great place for us to build a full company campus. We are both active in future acquisitions and selective about what fits strategically and if we can do more we will, but we also want to create more jobs in Philly.”
It’s one of the reasons the exec, who founded his company in 2014, has double-dipped in Philly’s landscape of agencies since last year: they’ve taken the talent pool coming out of local universities, the presence of large companies and access to the oft-mentioned Northeast Corridor.
Maass, whose company cited Philly’s Comcast as a banner customer in the early days, announced the acquisition in a nostalgia-tinged blog post on Thursday. After the end of a “an amazing 10-year journey filled with all sorts of peaks and valleys,” Maass sounds optimistic about the future.
“I feel fantastic,” Maass said. “Even though I thought I’d be able to take a little breather after [the deal] closed but nope. We’re hitting the ground running. And that’s a good thing.”
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