10 Noteworthy Consulting Firm Acquisitions
Since 2014

Consulting firms around the world are acquired by competitors or decide to merge with other consultancy companies. Are you ready to learn a bit more about these acquisitions?

Freelance Writer

April 2018
Since 2014, there's been increased interest in design firms from large companies seeking to improve the user experience. As a result, there has been a surge in acquisitions of design firms by established entities looking to ensure their ability to innovate and transform in the coming years. Here are 10 examples of design and software development firms, and in at least one case, their leadership, that were scooped up by big-name brands.

An analysis on the number of mergers and acquisitions (M&A) in the consulting industry since 2006 shows that over the past 10 years the number of transactions has remained relatively stable. Following a decline in the number of deals in 2013, consultancy mergers and acquisitions reached to 2,274 in 2014, the highest deal volume noted since 2007 – the record year in the past decade with just over 2,400 transactions completed in the top segment of the advisory market.

1. Adaptive Path Acquired by Capital One (2014)

Adaptive Path, a San Francisco based user experience and design consultancy firm, announced its acquisition by Capital One in October of 2014. While this wasn't the first acquisition talk over the years for Adaptive Path, Capital One was the first that felt like the right fit for Adaptive Path.

In fact, the company founders even stated that it finally "felt like the right option" leading to the sale for an undisclosed amount.

Upon acquisition, Capital One plans to keep the entire Adaptive Path together, and that events will be organized and posted on the Adaptive Path site. However, what the company would no longer be doing is providing outside design consulting services. Instead, the company will be helping to solve experience design issues for Capital One.
2001

Year of Founding
11-50

Number of Employees

2. McKinsey Acquires LUNAR (2015)

McKinsey is one of the leading product development advisory firms in the United States. In 2015, it acquired LUNAR in order to increase its capacity to provide design services to clients. The deal was concluded cautiously, only after a test period of about two years, during which McKinsey and LUNAR engaged in project collaboration.

The deal, finalized for an undisclosed amount, allowed LUNAR to continue to operate independently and serve its own client base. The four offices of LUNAR remain intact, but now the company also works on McKinsey client projects and has an important voice in design strategy for the company.

LUNAR has been a Silicon Valley fixture for more than 30 years. Founded in 1984, it worked on high-level product development for brands such as Apple, Nike and Oral-B, demonstrating a breadth of product knowledge that transcends industries. LUNAR president John Edson called the acquisition a "partnership" at the time of its announcement. Edson's role post-acquisition is listed as Design Partner.

LUNAR was founded by Jeff Smith and Gerard Furbershaw. Smith holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Illinois, and Furbershaw holds two bachelor's degrees, in Architecture from USC and in Industrial Design from San Jose State University.
2 founders

1984

Year of Founding
75

Number of Employees

3. Salesforce Acquires Akta (2015)

Akta was already acquiring companies of its own at the time it was bought by Salesforce in 2015. The tech consulting and design firm, specializing in user interface and interaction, had bought Fueled, which developed mobile apps, the year before. Akta was founded February 15, 2010, by a young entrepreneur.

Founder John Roa was 31 when Akta was bought out, only five years after he started the company in Chicago. Educated at Western Michigan University and Haworth School of Business, John Roa came to Chicago after spending some time in Los Angeles.

At the time of the acquisition, many believed it was an "interesting" mix. Rather than just providing software to help clients better handle customer needs, with the acquisition of AKTA, Salesforce now has the ability to offer more tools along with a more innovative and inviting aesthetic. Salesforce also stated that the acquisition would not result in any layoffs of the existing staff.
1 founder

2010

Year of Founding
11-50

Number of Employees
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4. Facebook Acquires Teehan and Lax (2015)

What makes the "acquisition" of Toronto-based design intelligence firm Teehan and Lax by Facebook a little bit different is that the social media site didn't actually buy the company. Instead, this was termed an "acquihire," where the expertise of the firm was sold to the online giant. In early 2015, the team announced it would wind down its existing contracts and turn its attention solely to Facebook.

Teehan and Lax was founded after the dot-com bust, the designers revealed in a lengthy piece on the history of the partnership. Jon Lax was a Creative Director at a media company before he was let go in 2002, about three years after he met Geoff Teehan, who was a self-employed Flash developer.

The pair would go on to create website design templates and work with Medium, a well-known site for text-based content.
2 founder

2002

Year of Founding
11-50

Number of Employees

5. Deloitte Buys Mobiento (2015)

Mobiento was founded on the promise of mobile innovation. It continued to grow by creating services for mobility and mobile development. The sale to Deloitte in 2015 gave the company the opportunity to establish operations in the Nordic and Swedish region.

With the collaboration, as this acquisition was referred to, Mobiento was able to provide even more value to customers.

Originally founded in 2001, Mobiento quickly established itself as a market leader in the industry of digital service development. This represented yet another acquisition by Deloitte, which had already acquired several other consulting firms, including Monitor, Pathfinder, Banyan Branch and Flow and Ubermind.
2001

Year of Founding
40

Number of Employees

6. Ernst and Young Acquires Seren (2015)

At the time of acquisition, Seren was an international customer experience and digital design consultancy service that worked with companies in the financial and telecom sector. Its focus was to help achieve digital business transformation with a customer-centered approach. The acquisition was the very first like it for the UK Advisory practice. This represents part of its continued investment and its growth in the UK and around the globe.

With the agreed-upon deal, all employees, along with executives, were able to remain at the Seren premises. The acquisition marked the beginning of EY's plans to increase its global strategy regarding consulting services to more than 2,500 individuals by the year 2020.

The acquisition of Seren didn't come as much of a surprise, as the company had been working with EY for over a year on several shared client projects. The success that was achieved is what prompted each company to think about how it could begin working together more quickly. After spending over 14 years developing market-leading designs for customer service, the EY collaboration gives Seren the opportunity to apply the collective skills to clients around the globe.
1 founder

2003

Year of Founding
60

Number of Employees

7. Pivotal Acquires Slice of Lime (2016)

The acquisition of design company Slice of Lime by enterprise software company Pivotal was another example of a consulting firm reaching out to find specific design expertise. It then brought that expertise in-house. When the acquisition of Slice of Lime was announced, it was revealed the company's existing staff of 18 would become fully part of Pivotal Labs.

This partnership was based on previous familiarity. Kevin Menzie, the founder of Slice of Lime, said his team had worked collaboratively with Pivotal over the prior five years. His design entity, known for creating extraordinary UX strategies, also had a reputation as a good place to work. It was singled out by Outside as one of the Top 10 workplaces in America in 2015. At the time, staff could spend 20 percent of their time on passion projects and compete for skydiving trips to the Moab.

Menzie graduated from Northwestern University with a degree in Radio, Television and Film, then worked at a few Boulder-based startups. He started Slice of Lime as a mobile app company, when that technology was still in its infancy. After the company's acquisition, he eventually moved on to become Product Director at Sphero.

1 founder

2001

Year of Founding
18

Number of Employees

8. Capgemini Acquires Fahrenheit 212 (2016)

At the time of its 2016 acquisition by Capgemini, a consulting and technology firm, Fahrenheit 212 had offices in New York and London. In operation for 12 years, the design and innovation firm had worked with big-name brands such as The Coca-Cola Company and Citi.

Founded by Geoff Valuta and Mark Payne, the company touts itself as creating transformational products. Payne holds a BA in Economics and Psychology from Middlebury College. Valuta had a successful career as an ad executive before co-founding Fahrenheit. He told Fast Company in 2010 that he got clients excited about a new idea by only making them pay if the idea earned them money.

One of the driving factors behind this acquisition was the companies' shared view for the future of innovation. The goal was to provide additional value, as well as more innovation to clients, while expanding innovative solutions to new industries that were undergoing some type of digital disruption.
2 founders

2002

Year of Founding
83

Number of Employees

9. IBM Buys Aperto (2016)

IBM is one of the world's oldest technology companies, and by acquiring Aperto in 2016, it demonstrated a further commitment to keep on the leading edge of technology innovation. Aperto was already a large and established digital agency, and in a press release, IBM said the acquisition was the latest in a string of activities to help the company improve user experiences.

When the acquisition took place, it was the second digital and creative agency acquisition that occurred in just a matter of days. In fact, the acquisition of Aperto followed the announcement made by the company to acquire the U.S.-based agency Resource/Ammirati, now known as IBM iX, that specializes in helping businesses take on a digital reinvention, particularly with the help of artificial intelligence. The goal behind each of these acquisitions was to grow, develop more services and provide additional value.
1 founder

1995

Year of Founding
300

Number of Employees

10. Cooper Expanded by Wipro Digital (2017)

Cooper, an award-winning business strategy and award-winning design consultancy company announced in October of 2017 that the company was being acquired by Wipro Digital. Cooper is sought to become a part of Wipro Digital's strategic design arm - Designit. This collaboration will help to strengthen the company's innovation and design capabilities, while expanding its reach throughout North America.

When the acquisition occurred, Designit and Wipro Digital were serving clients from 16 offices all around the globe. With the acquisition, Wipro gained access to 35 new employees to Cooper, in both New York and San Francisco.

The acquisition helped to strengthen the proposition Wipro had in the digital services industry.
2 founders

2002

Year of Founding
35

Number of Employees
$8.5M

Acquisition Amount

Learning About the Motivation Behind Consultancy Firm Acquisitions

For most companies, the primary goal of the acquisition was to provide better client satisfaction levels or to help a company that was facing growth or financial difficulties. Regardless of the reason, the acquisitions found here were not only noteworthy, but they represented serious milestones in each of the company's histories.

The executives of many companies, as well as employees in many cases, were able to maintain their positions and avoid being laid off due to the acquisition. This resulted in powerful mergers that helped both teams provide more value and better services for clients and customers, regardless of where they were located or the type of industry they were in.

There are sure to be many more impressive acquisitions in the near future that will be worthy of being on this list.