Empowering Youth and Adult Learners with Knowledge, Skills and Confidence
Since inception, we’ve had the extraordinary opportunity to meet with founders and management from countless compelling technology companies and diligence hundreds of potential investment opportunities. Often these discussions can lead us in an unexpected but fruitful direction. One recent illustration is our journey with A Cloud Guru (ACG), the leading provider of online cloud skill training and certification preparation, which actually started with us getting to know one of the company’s competitors: Linux Academy.
Given the growing requirement for training and certification as businesses shift workloads to the cloud, our engagement with Linux Academy was part of an effort to examine investment opportunities within that thematic area. The founder of Linux Academy had decided to sell the business and was running a formal auction led by an investment bank. We liked the business but recognized that we needed a differentiated angle to spend time and resources in the context of a broad sale process.
That led us to initiate conversations with ACG. We had identified ACG as an emerging leader in the space and believed that ACG and Linux Academy had highly complementary products and content, and together would be the clear leader in the market. We also had long-term relationships across our team with ACG’s investors, who shared a common vision about the potential for the combination. After spending time with ACG’s founder & CEO, Sam Kroonenberg, we had a high degree of conviction that he was the right leader to realize this vision.
Sam and his team had built an amazing company and developed a next-generation education product that was flexible and engaging for the modern learner. Importantly, from its founding days, ACG’s mission was to empower people from all backgrounds to develop the skills that would enable them to succeed in today’s fast-paced digital world. This is a great example of how we think about responsible innovation at Tech Opportunities, and the roles that new products, technologies, and business models can have on society.
The strategic fit between ACG and Linux was compelling. After engaging in a set of conversations and ensuring alignment on the vision for the combination, Tech Opportunities was chosen by ACG and its investor group to help support the acquisition and integration of the two companies. Bain Capital’s deep expertise in driving transformative “double-play” transactions and operational expertise was a key element in ACG’s decision process.
“We had never acquired a company before, so it was important to make sure that we that we had partners who were able to give us the tools and the frameworks to be able to run an acquisition of this scale.”
Partnering with A Cloud Guru in the diligence, acquisition and integration of Linux Academy required deep, on-the-ground coordination efforts led by our experienced group of investors and operating partners. There are significant cultural challenges in merging two similar sized companies with a history of competing against each other, and navigating these effectively requires experience, knowledge, and a nuanced approach. Working side-by-side with the ACG management team, we brought dedicated frameworks and models to ensure an effective integration, and supported dozens of workstreams to ensure that the combined company hit the ground running as quickly as possible.
“What I love about the Bain Capital operating team is that they’ve seen this movie 20 times before. They deeply ingrained themselves with our entire executive team, got to know our personalities and in critical moments they were here to brainstorm and help reach a decision.”
The acquisition created a company of a much larger scale and led to accelerated growth. The combined company had the largest catalogue of cloud skills training courses and certifications in the world, enabling more than 2.5 million learners to acquire the skills and certifications needed to pursue meaningful careers in the cloud. Our engagement with Sam and his team continued beyond the merger integration, as we helped find additional talent to support the company’s growth and worked closely with the team to roll out a new enterprise sales and marketing approach and a refined pricing and packaging strategy.
A core part of our investment thesis was that by creating the clear market leader in online cloud skills training, we would be creating a company with unique strategic value. This belief was validated when A Cloud Guru was acquired by Pluralsight in June 2021, just eighteen months after our investment in the company.
The combination of A Cloud Guru and Linux Academy began with a thematic view on the market, but ultimately was enabled by our network, our creative approach to deal-making, and by the unique depth and experience we bring with transformative acquisitions and our ability to support management teams in creating scale, high growth companies.