After earlier this month completing the second of two UK acquisitions in less than 12 months, the CEO of service provider Ensono has opened up on the rationale behind the US firm's entrance into the UK market.
Ensono arrived in the UK with the acquisition of Staines-based Amazon Web Services (AWS) specialist Attenda in September last year, before acquiring Reading-based Microsoft Azure specialist Inframon earlier this month.
Ensono was itself the subject of an acquisition as little as two years ago, when it was spun out of then-parent company Axciom and was acquired by Charlesbank Capital Partners in 2015.
Since then, the company has been transformed from a stagnant $200m-turnover business to a growing $275m hyrbrid-IT specialist.
"The business has changed dramatically," said CEO Jeff vonDeylen.
"I think we've been able to take what was a nice business in terms of some good clients and capabilities, and really take it from being a division of a larger company that was not focused on, was shrinking and hadn't invested much in sales and marketing resources, and really turn it around."
Ensono has traditionally focused on servicing the enterprise mainframe market, with customers typically hitting up to $5bn revenue.
However the new management team quickly identified that the business needed to broaden its scope to stay relevant, VonDeylen explained, and sought to build a hybrid offering encompassing the public cloud.
While moving into the UK was a factor in snapping up Attenda last year, the focus was largely around getting the public cloud capabilities quicker than building them organically would have taken.
"Our hybrid capability at Ensono prior to Attenda was we had really great mainframe capabilities, good private capabilities and non-existent hyper-scale or public cloud capabilities," he said.
"We thought we would be pretty complete in terms of companies our size focusing on hybrid from mainframe all the way to public cloud.
"First and foremost it was the platform that led to the acquisition, then the culture of Attenda and then the location.
"It's pretty dilutive to try and build those geographic capabilities out without having local people and customers, so these three things were all equally important."
While the acquisitions marked Ensono's first entity in the UK, it previously had a small presence that was set up to serve just its one biggest client.
The acquisitions have broadened out the size of Ensono's customer base - bringing in clients with smaller revenues - so its target market is now firms with between £200m and £5bn turnover.
In Q4 this year the service provider plans to bring its mainframe capabilities over to the UK, opening up the possibility of reaching the larger end of its target market in the UK, as it already can in the US.
Following the acquisition of Attenda Ensono quickly found itself targeting a second cloud provider, this time with a strong Azure capability.
The acquisition of Inframon, vonDeylen said, came predominately as a result of customer demand.
"We have a really great private cloud offering and we have in our public cloud offering our AWS capabilities - which is the fastest growing part of the business," he said. "One of the things we were missing is that Azure capability. We had a number of clients in the UK, and a number of our existing clients in the US, who had deep relationships with Microsoft.
"They were saying ‘we're going to move applications to Azure. Some of those are in the Ensono private cloud environment; if you don't have Azure capabilities we'll work with someone else'.
"We just felt it was really important for us to complete that part of our product capability. Building it would have been 18 months to get the capabilities we want and we would have had to steal people from our AWS team. It just made a lot more sense [to acquire Inframon]."
At the time of the acquisition last year Attenda was rebranded as ‘an Ensono company', but has since been absorbed by the Ensono business and the name has been dropped.
The same steps have been taking with Inframon, with its name set to be removed over the coming months.
In the long term, vonDeylen said Ensono has set itself the target of becoming a $500m company by 2020. He also hinted that further acquisitions could take place as soon as next year.
"Our acquisition strategy would be about adding other capabilities on top of our platform," he said.
"You could see us thinking about other application support, a security capability, data analytics - it's really going to be driven by what our clients need.
"As they go through changes, how can we have great infrastructure capabilities and add services on top of that to help them achieve their objectives?
"Clearly in 2018 you'll see it in the form of acquisitions or partnerships. I don't think we need to acquire all of the capabilities. Some are offered as a SaaS solution, so they could happen in terms of partnerships."
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