I haven’t written a post for the past month. Once I learned about the Salesforce acquisition of Buddy Media it was pretty much all I could do to turn off my computer and try not to think about what the acquisition would mean for me, Greycroft, and my friends at Buddy Media. I thought anything I typed would be too much of a giveaway, and I also wanted to wait until the transaction was closed so I could tell the story of Greycroft’s involvement and how I got to know Mike and Kass Lazerow.
To give you a little background, I first met Mike Lazerow in November 2007, just a few months after he founded the company. I was introduced by my friend Howard Lindzon, who was in town from Phoenix and crashing on Mike’s couch. Mike stood out as an early advocate of Facebook, which at the time only had 40 or 50 million active users, and he was experimenting with new business models on the platform.
Buddy Media operated three different businesses in the early days. The first business was an ad network that purchased Facebook media, the second business was a development shop for branded applications, and the third business was called “AceBucks”, which was the first virtual currency on Facebook. Mike had raised a friends and family round in the fall of 2007, and his angels included an entrepreneur named Mark Pincus, who had just started a poker site called Zynga, and Peter Thiel, the original angel investor in Facebook.
We struck a deal in the winter and finally closed our investment on April 8, 2008. This was just my third investment at Greycroft (following Vizu and Collective) and it was a $1MM investment on a $22MM post-money valuation. It was a small ownership percentage, but it turned out to be the start of something bigger. Over the next two years we ended up buying equity four more times, and as of today Greycroft is the second largest shareholder on the cap table.
In hindsight Mike made a prescient bet on the Facebook ecosystem. In mid-2009 Facebook launched a page service for brands. This mirrored the consumer experience on Facebook and created a permanent homepage for branded content. The only issue is that you had to be fluent with a new programming language called “Facebook Mark-up Language”, or FBML for short. Very few people knew FBML, but the team at Buddy Media had amassed expertise from their prior development work. As a result, Buddy Media built the first tool that made it easy for people who used basic web programming languages, such as Flash and HTML, to publish pages on Facebook. This catalyzed an entire industry of software companies called “Page Management Vendors” that followed Buddy Media’s lead.
In early 2010 Buddy Media added Twitter publishing, giving clients the ability to publish social content across multiple platforms. They also added detailed analytics showing the value of earned media generated by the platform. The result was the first “Social Media Management System”, a term the company coined in 2010.
The following year Buddy Media added conversion tracking through the acquisition of Spinback and in 2012 the company purchased Brighter Option to enable cross platform media buying. Today Buddy Media stands alone as the only end-to-end enterprise platform in the market.
It was a major achievement for the team to iterate so quickly and maintain market leadership in this space, particularly since there have been so many well funded competitors. As an observer and bystander I have also been impressed by the company’s commitment to culture. This was managed by Mike’s wife and business partner, Kass Lazerow, who deserves equal credit for the company’s success.
The company’s leadership, combined with scale in the enterprise market, was the reason Buddy Media was acquired by Salesforce. Ultimately I think this will be a great acquisition for Salesforce and allow them to own the enterprise segment in Social Media Management Software for a long time to come.
Ian has an amazing knack for spotting emerging technology and great leadership teams. Congratulations Ian, Greycroft, and Buddy Media. This was a home run!