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.
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.
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.
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.