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CX acquisitions and funding news

New Company Owners: Thoma Bravo, Sunstone Partners, Centre Lane Partners, and Emplifi

Acquired: UserTesting, Monetate, and Pixel TurnTo. Also: Lara AI and Tagado Raise Funds

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Thoma Bravo and Sunstone Partners Set to Acquire UserTesting for $1.3 Billion

Software investment company Thoma Bravo and growth-oriented private equity firm Sunstone Partners will acquire UserTesting, a user experience (UX) insights company and a provider of video-based feedback solutions, in an all-cash transaction valued at $1.3 billion. After the transaction closes, the buyers will combine UserTesting and UserZoom, another UX insights organization that had been acquired by Thoma Bravo in April. Andy MacMillan, CEO of UserTesting, will head the combined outfit.

Uniting the complementary offerings of the two companies will create a powerful end-to-end solution in the CX space, according to an official statement about the transaction. “By combining UserZoom’s multi-method research capabilities, proprietary benchmarking methodology, and research repository with UserTesting’s proprietary contributor network and enterprise-scale experience testing platform, customers will be able to leverage the strength of both solutions to build better product, customer, employee, and brand experiences,” it says.

Related Article: Medallia to Be Acquired by Investment Firm Thoma Bravo

The transaction, unanimously approved by the UserTesting board of directors, is expected to close in the first half of 2023, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals. The agreement includes a “go-shop” period, which allows the UserTesting board of directors and its advisors to actively initiate, solicit, and consider alternative acquisition proposals from third parties; the period expires at 11:59 p.m. Pacific time on December 10.

Principal investor Thoma Bravo is one of the largest private equity firms in the world, with more than $122 billion in assets under management as of June 30, 2022. During the past 20 years, the firm has acquired or invested in more than 400 companies, which together represent more than $220 billion in enterprise value. The company has offices in Chicago, Miami, and San Francisco.

Kibo Sells Monetate to Concentrate on Core Business

Omnichannel commerce provider Kibo has sold its personalization business to strengthen its hand in the composable commerce space for order management and ecommerce. Monetate, a company that had been acquired previously by Kibo, was sold to Centre Lane Partners, a private equity firm headquartered in New York City that invests in middle-market companies in North America.  Financial details of the transaction have not been disclosed. 

Kibo acquired Monetate in 2019 together with Certona, an AI-powered personalization solution provider, in a strategic effort to integrate the two powerful platforms into a best-in-class personalization powerhouse that would complement Kibo’s commerce business. Fast forward three years to the present, and Kibo now says the transaction is necessary to unleash the full potential of Monetate for the personalization business while also enabling Kibo to expand its global footprint and pursue a horizontal growth strategy outside of retail in vertical industries such as financial services, travel and hospitality, and telecommunications.

“We are extremely excited to partner with Centre Lane on this next chapter of our journey as a leader in personalization,” says Brian Wilson, the current chief operating officer of Kibo who will lead Monetate as its chief executive officer. “With the power of product recommendations, 1×1 personalization, personalized search, and A/B testing in a single unified personalization platform combined with the re-launch of the Monetate brand, we are well positioned to pursue our go-forward growth strategy that will build upon our strong retail footprint while continuing to expand into other markets.”

Kibo officials say the company will continue to partner closely with Monetate to maintain optimal CX and full value for joint clients and prospects of the two companies.

Emplifi Acquires Pixel TurnTo, Uniting Complementary Solutions

Unified CX cloud platform provider Emplifi is acquiring Pixlee TurnTo, the provider of customer content solutions to brands. Financial details of the transaction have not been made available, but the deal will incorporate Pixlee TurnTo capabilities into Emplifi workflows for social marketing, live commerce, and customer care as part of the Emplifi cloud platform.

Emplifi, headquartered in New York City, develops CX systems and brings marketing, commerce, and care together to help businesses close any CX gaps. Pixlee TurnTo, based in San Francisco, provides solutions to identify user-generated content (UGC), surface highlights from positive reviews, and pinpoint influencers to educate digital audiences while also aiming to deliver deeper engagement, higher conversion rates, and increased loyalty.

Related Article: Funding and M&A: Emplifi, Birdeye, inFeedo, Affogata, and Dixa

Together, the two companies will give brands UGC access, ratings and reviews management, and influencer marketing tools needed to put customers at the center of brand storytelling, executives from both organizations say.

The acquisition comes less than a year after Emplifi acquired live commerce software provider Go Instore in September 2021. With the combined abilities expected soon of the Emplifi and Pixlee TurnTo solutions, brands will be able to broadcast or amplify their message to target audiences on designated channels with authenticity, relatability, and credibility, the two companies say.

Lara AI Closes $1.1 Million Funding Round for Personal Assistant AI Technology  

Argentinian startup Lara AI, the developer of a conversational AI personal assistant that could be individually paired to each employee by a company, has closed a $1.1 million round. Investors in the current funding series include Latin American financiers Newtopia VC, 500 LatAm, and MrPink VC, along with New York-based FJ Labs and Japanese-backed Brazil Venture Capital, with several angel investors also participating.

Lara AI executives say the company’s technology helps organizations improve their employee experience (EX) by detecting disgruntled or at-risk workers early on during employment, enabling firms to obtain real-time information to enhance the experience of its workers and strengthen company culture.

And because remote and hybrid work has made it more difficult for companies to maintain direct contact with their employees, Lara AI can help determine whether workers are satisfied with their jobs or if they are seriously considering a change of position. “Human Capital teams do not usually have the scale to track the experience of each employee and have a bottleneck when it comes to solving all their doubts and requirements,” says Alan Szpigiel, the company’s co-founder and chief technology officer. “Lara AI functions as the right hand of the Human Capital team and leaders,” Szpigiel adds.

Lara AI also automates tasks, such as handling tickets and requests, sending personalized communications to employees at key moments, and answering frequently raised questions. The company is currently looking to consolidate its presence in Mexico and has plans to expand throughout Latin America.

Tagado Raises $4 Million in Seed Funds for NLP Platform   

Israeli startup Tagado recently raised $4 million in seed funding for its AI-powered platform that provides business insights through natural language processing (NLP) technology. The capital infusion, to be used for hiring new workers and for expanding into the US market, was led by San Francisco-based venture capital firms Blumberg Capital and Bling Capital.

The Tagado platform allows companies to organize from multiple channels customer feedback that is automatically generated through AI into actionable business insights. The platform gathers public and internal information from various sources, including review sites, social media, customer relationship management (CRM) contacts, and support tickets, using NLP and machine learning (ML) to identify trends, opportunities and risks, which Tagado then provides to the customer.

“We developed technology to assist businesses and managers in making informed decisions regarding their next steps,” says Tagado CEO Ohad Zadok. “As a result of the insights our technology can provide, companies can improve the performance of their business, identify missing marketing messages, and determine which new features will be most impactful.”

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