Yesterday, we announced to our employees and customers that DiscoverOrg has acquired RainKing.
This blog is more personal than business – it’s the story of how two companies pushed each other to be better, how that competition changed me as a leader, and why I couldn’t be more excited about our future.
I remember the first time I heard of RainKing. I was in my law school apartment and stumbled upon their website. I was 23 years old, under $130,000 of college and law school debt – and I had just launched DiscoverOrg: a company with no brand recognition, no financing, no real experience behind it. RainKing was a REAL company. They had real executives, a great website, and venture funding.
The walls immediatly started caving in. “Why did I do this? Why didn’t I take the opportunities to go work for a Big Law Firm?” “How are two 23-year-olds going to compete with a venture funded REAL company!?” And then doubt crept in as well.
There were so many things I didn’t understand then that I have come to appreciate since. First, RainKing and DiscoverOrg were playing in a very large market: B2B Sales and Marketing is a massive opportunity, so it was okay to have a competitor. Next, there was a HUGE appetite from our customers for high-quality data. Third, never discount the staying power of determination and grit. For what we lacked in funding, staff, and experience, we made up for in hard work and determination.
We hired a team of believers, and we sold them on the idea that we would build a $100m+ software company in Vancouver, Washington, of all places. We promised that even though many customers would think we were a not-for-profit (no, we are not Discover DOT Org), they would be compelled by our data, our platform, and how those things would actually drive revenue for their firms.
And then we went to work everyday trying to will those visions and ideas true.
We spent the next 10 years competing with RainKing. Ten years selling in the same market. To be fully honest, I hated them. Well, hate isn’t the right word; some mix of “wanted to beat them incredibly badly and on every deal,” “couldn’t stand losing to them,” and “was terrified of what they were going to do next” is more accurate. That’s what I felt – for 10 years straight. And many times over that decade, they paved the way in our space, and we followed.
But you know what’s really interesting about going up against a great competitor? You realize quickly that they’re people – great people – who worked hard to build a highly successful, $40M business.
And what an accomplishment that is. I appreciate it so much because I was there, with them – doing the same thing 3,000 miles away. When I recognized that, my feelings totally changed. I started dreaming bigger about the space we were in and the opportunity ahead of us – but in my dreams, it was just one, larger team driving towards a bigger vision. It wasn’t us and them.
These companies were always meant to be together. In 2008, my co-founder Kirk Brown and I drove to Bethesda to meet the RainKing management team.
We’re 24 years old and don’t really understand the business we are in. So we pack our one suit, shine our best shoes, stay in a law school friend’s mom’s basement, and head to our first “business meeting” – hopeful that there was a financial way to make our three-person company part of something bigger. And imagine that feeling: Here we are, a year-old company with three employees, stumbling into a competitor’s office with 40 employees and a seasoned management team.
All of that doubt came rushing back. After a day of meetings, it was clear it wasn’t going to work out. Why? Well, frankly, Kirk and I didn’t have a company yet; we had a couple of customers buying data (probably by accident) from us, and we were in way over our heads trying to have a real acquisition dialogue. But we made the long drive home convincing each other that we could compete, and that what we lacked in pedigree and experience could be made up for in hustle and hard work.
That’s why today is so exciting. DiscoverOrg and RainKing is an acquisition that has ALWAYS made sense, whether we were acquiring or being acquired.
But getting here has been filled with ups and downs, starting back in February when we first approached RainKing about the possibility of putting our companies together.
Every month, I look at four or five acquisition opportunities in our space; and for a variety of reasons, most companies are not good fits for an acquisition.
Many things have to line up for an acquisition to make sense. The key things I want to know are:
- Do we have a cultural fit between the companies: Will our staff be able to collaborate and work with the other company’s staff?
- Are they profitable? We are owned by a large private equity firm, so profitability matters.
- Do they have a unique offering that their customers love, and that our customers will love?
- Are there mutual things that we do better than each other, that can fit together to accelerate our combined growth? (For example, are we better at lead generation, but they’re better at data collection? Are we better at upselling, but they’re better at selling enterprise deals? Etc.)
Most of the time, there just isn’t a fit to move forward.
That’s what made RainKing such an exciting opportunity for us. We both looked at the sales and marketing intelligence space through the same lens: “Can we provide incredibly high-quality datasets for our customers that accelerate how they go to market and grow their businesses?”
We were totally aligned on our mission.
The fun part of the acquisition was understanding what RainKing was doing differently that could accelerate our data collection practices, our enterprise sales strategy, and our predictive analytics roadmap – and drive our combined growth.
Over the last 10 years, RainKing has built innovative products and gathered unique datasets; for instance, deeper datasets for Europe and the federal government – areas our customers ask for. They built a team committed to winning in the SaaS space and created a loyal customer base that uses their product every day to make a real difference.
It didn’t work out nine years ago (and anyone who knows me knows that patience does not always come naturally), but man, I am so glad that both companies were patient enough, determined enough, and so incredibly successful enough to make this happen.
We motivated each other. And in the end, our customers are the real winners.
The opportunity now in front of us is immense. High-quality data drives every successful sales and marketing campaign. The ability to leverage accurate, account-centric company, contact, and buying insights will give savvy sales and marketers the edge.
And that crazy little idea that once paled in comparison to a legal job? It’s now poised to deliver what every B2B sales and marketer needs to be successful.
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