Have you ever heard of Acision? Possibly not. It’s an example of a British company that is a world leader in its field, without being known to the public at large (another example might be the Cambridge-based semiconductor and software maker ARM, whose chips power a vast range of devices, from Apple’s iPhone and iPad through to smart TVs).
Founded by Lawrence Quinn in 2007 and based in Reading, Acision is a privately-held – by investment vehicles Atlantic Bridge Ventures and Access Industries – mobile network infrastructure company specialising in messaging and charging systems that enable popular services such as SMS texting, multi-media messaging (MMS), mobile internet browsing, mobile broadband and voicemail. So the first thing we know about it is that it’s in a growth market.
According to the most up-to-date figures I can find, Acision has over 300 mobile operators as customers and claims to serve over a billion end users. What’s more it is claimed that over 50 per cent of all SMS revenue globally is generated through its platforms. The company also employs some 1,500 people in more than 20 countries and has turnover topping £500m per annum. So a real global player then.
I write this because this hugely important, if somewhat unknown, company has been busy in the M&A space recently. Its latest acquisition is particularly timely, as concerns about mobile and web security, following the hacking last month of celebrities’ iCloud accounts, move to the top of the news agenda.
One of the things that made BlackBerry so popular in the enterprise sector was the security it offered. Large firms were happy to equip their employees with BlackBerry handsets because IT departments and bosses knew that the devices offered secure email and messaging (and BlackBerry’s messaging service BBM hit the headlines during the August 2011 riots because it was so difficult to monitor, much to the authorities’ chagrin).
But BlackBerry is no longer the force it was, so there is a need to reassure the enterprise community that secure messaging is still possible on other devices.
Acision has obviously seen an opportunity, and has moved to strengthen its enterprise security offering by acquiring German company MindMatics Secure Messaging for an undisclosed fee.
MindMatics offers secure support services between businesses and their customers via messaging. It works with more than 900 operators globally and Acision says it complies with “the highest degree of data protection, security and safety standards”.
According to Acision, the acquisition would help it to offer secure messaging services for the likes of the financial, transportation, travel, logistics and telecommunications sectors. Among the features that MindMatics offers are multi-factor and one time password authentication, which will be particularly useful for the financial sector (mobile banking, and mobile payments – witnessed by the launch earlier this week by Apple’s launch of its iPay system – for example, are becoming increasingly popular, but require the highest levels of trust if consumer take-up is to continue).
One of the services offered by MindMatics that made it very attractive to Acision was its recently-launched secure IP messaging client trustego, which offers encrypted messaging between apps and MindMatics’ infrastructure.
The trustego service is available via white label or through a software development kit or SDK, so businesses can embed security into their own apps and products. It can also be downloaded as an Apple iOS or Google Android app.
It seems to me that MindMatics’ technology and expertise fit neatly into Acision’s strategy, which is providing cross-border services to mobile operators and enterprises; given the way that the world (itself increasingly globalised) is going – moving onto the mobile web for everything from banking, payments and data collection – this seems like an eminently sensible strategy.
This month’s acquisition follows Acision’s purchasing of Crocodile Technology’s assets in November 2013, which enabled the company to add WebRTC (web-based real time communication – a system that supports browser-to-browser applications for voice calling, video chat and peer-to-peer file sharing without plugins)-based services to its portfolio and offer the latest real-time, rich communications via the Acision SDK.
MindMatics’ products (including its core Mobile Messaging Platform) also combine perfectly with Acision’s other assets, including its services creation platform, Acision Dialogue Manager, its API platform (forge by Acision), and fuzeMe by Acision, a smart communication and messaging app that is gaining real traction on both iOS and Android. So, whatever it paid for MindMatics, it looks like a very canny deal.
So Acision now has a comprehensive product portfolio that will allow its clients to move into new territories and new services with a good deal of confidence.
It may be that Acision will be an unknown giant for not very much longer.
Andrew Moss is a partner at Green Square, corporate finance advisors to the media and marketing sector.