Near, founded in 2012, raised a $100 million Series D round last year to bring its fundraising total to $134 million. The company’s core product is Allspark, a cloud-based AI platform. Allspark builds anonymized user profiles that measure online to offline behavior (at a pace of 1.6 billion consumers per month). Allspark operates across 44 different markets.
Teemo is a Paris-based location data company, founded in 2014, that attracted Near in part because of its devotion to privacy. Teemo’s expertise in the complex GDPR regulatory framework made the company a logical target for Near, which has ambitions to expand globally. Presumably, acquisitions will be key to the company’s expansion strategy. Teemo’s Paris location also gives Near closer access to big European brands.
We caught up with Teemo’s CEO and Co-founder Benoit Grouchko, who described the synergies between the two organizations. Grouchko plans to remain as part of Near’s leadership team.
“Combining Near’s leading data-driven marketing and enrichment offerings with our marketing platform puts us in a unique position to provide global brands with privacy led marketing products and insights,” Grouchko told Localogy Insider. “We share a culture that prioritizes privacy and performance, and we couldn’t be more excited about joining the Near family.”
Is Privacy Regulation a Consolidation Headwind?
While this deal’s rationale may be unique to these two companies, as most deals are, it does align with our view that the location data space is ripe for consolidation. One factor that may have slowed the consolidation drive is uncertainty over consumer privacy regulation. The current situation in U.S., for example, is a patchwork of state laws. Globally there are a variety of regulatory frameworks, with Europe’s GDPR as the model.
At Localogy’s September 20/20 virtual event, two experts on privacy law addressed the uncertainty issue. The attorneys, James Ward and Michael Signorelli, said then that a national privacy law was unlikely. But they hastened to add that the lack of a national standard doesn’t guarantee chaos.
“One thing you can say is that most [state] laws stem from the same general principles,” James said on the virtual panel discussion. “Fair processing principals that have been around since 1981. With modifications over the years.”
Is There Certainty on the Horizon?
The recent passage of the California Privacy Rights Act (CPRA) has raised the stakes on consumer data privacy. This was a ballot referendum that expands and enhances the scope and consequences of CCPA. While the regulation doesn’t go into effect for two more years, its influence will be felt sooner. As Ward writes in a recent Localogy Privacy Bulletin, the odds of a national standard have improved as a result of California ratcheting up its privacy regulation. Will this provide the stability needed to unleash a wave of consolidation? Perhaps. But it may be a while before we know.
“The point is that if there is a compromise and Congress elects to do some form of preemption, it isn’t going to be a coincidence that it happened after CPRA passed. As such, it’s already important state privacy law in the United States, even though it won’t even go into effect for more than two years.”
Acquisitions Adding Up to a Trend?
Still, acquisitions will happen. Even with a lack of regulatory certainty. It just may not happen at the pace we would expect to see in a less muddy environment. Of course, we have seen other merger activity this year on top of this week’s Near and Teemo deal.
The big example of course was April’s Foursquare-Factual merger. This deal created a location data company with domination-level scale. As we wrote at the time, “This creates a location intelligence powerhouse including data that span 500 million global devices. The firms also collectively boast more than 105 million points of interest across 190 countries.”
There was also the lesser example of X-mode’s February acquisition of Location Sciences’ relevant assets. So now we have Near acquiring Teemo. Is this enough to declare a trend? Let’s wait and see.
We expect that going forward, companies that treat their privacy compliance expertise as a competitive differentiator, as Grouchko suggests in his comment to us, will be in a much stronger position. These companies will win deals with major brands who need to be confident that their data partners will not lead them into a legal morass. And they will be more likely to attract capital. These companies will be buyers, not sellers, as consolidation ramps up, as we expect it will.