Back in September 2017, Toronto-based ScribbleLive acquired ion interactive, the interactive content SaaS company I had co-founded and served as president and CTO.
Scribble had raised $50 million (Canadian dollars?) from a bunch of VCs and had executed a string of acquisitions — including the content talent marketplace Visual.ly — to build out an enterprise content marketing suite. Scribble was right in the center of the first golden age of martech, with its corresponding challenges and opportunities.
Recently, the story took an interesting new direction.
In November, Scribble — and ion interactive within it — was itself acquired by Rock Content, the largest content marketing solution and service provider in Latin America. This is doubly interesting to me. First, as an example of a Latin American martech company making a major move into the North American market. But second, as an example of a successful marketing services business blending more software into their business model based on their expertise.
Rock Content was launched six years ago by three Brazilian co-founders. They developed deep expertise in SEO and demand generation and built a worldwide network of content creators. They run one of the top 50 blogs in the world in Portuguese and Spanish, with over 4 million visits every month.
With the acquisition of ScribbleLive, they’ve grown into a global enterprise with over 500 employees, six offices, and 2,000 customers.
In talking with CEO Diego Gomes, one of the co-founders, I was struck by his passion for the content marketing industry and his repeated emphasis on culture and talent as competitive differentiators.
You can get a sense of his enthusiasm by reading his personal announcement of the acquisition on LinkedIn.
Aside from being personally excited about a new leader for the interactive content platform that I was proud to have been a part of — in full disclosure, I still have a financial stake in its success — I’m jazzed to have another great example of a hybrid services-product martech business to point toward.
I believe services companies can make excellent martech product companies, especially when their product is entwined with — or at the very least, closely supported by — their services:
- They’re inherently focused on outcomes and results for their clients.
- They live the “ground truth” of what it’s like to deliver those results.
- They’ve grown their businesses around major platforms and naturally complement them.
- They have profitability baked in from the start (few services businesses are VC funded).
- Their profitability mindset tends to make them capital efficient.
- Between their outcome focus and financial discipline, they can be highly competitive in total cost to clients.
Rock Content is one concrete example of these dynamics at work:
“As far as we are aware of,” wrote Diego in his LinkedIn announcement, “We’re the only company in the [content marketing] category with revenues in the tens of millions of dollars that had sustainable, profitable growth for most of its journey.”
“Our content marketing category peers have raised in excess of 10x more capital from VCs than we did to accomplish similar results. And even with that, I still don’t see them posting the consistent growth rates that we have been over the years.”
Rock on, my friends. Rock on.