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An Exit In The Cloud: Colt Buys ThinkGrid To Beef Up Its Small Enterprise Cloud Services Business

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Tech M&A Volume Slows In Q2 As Big Deals Take Center Stage

Some consolidation up in the clouds: Colt Technology Services has bought ThinkGrid, an enterprise cloud startup that has created a platform for channel partners and small and medium businesses for them in turn to become cloud service providers.

The financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it looks like it was a decent one for ThinkGrid’s investors: a spokesperson for Runa Capital, a VC backer of ThinkGrid, tells TechCrunch that it has made back 4.5 times what it invested in the company in October 2011 (that investment itself was for an undisclosed amount). It is also Runa’s first-ever exit from its portfolio. The RNS statement for the deal notes that Fidelity Telecom (the non-trading name for ThinkGrid) had unaudited gross assets of £600,000, although this “does not reflect the transactional value of the acquisition,” a Colt spokesperson told TechCrunch.

The deal underscores the potential strength of the cloud and managed services business specifically in the area of SMBs, but also how Colt needs to focus more on that area to try to capitalize on it. Colt says this market is set to grow “15% annually during the coming years.” But in its last earnings statement, Colt also noted that “economic headwinds” were leading to lots of churn in data and voice services among its small business customers.

For the last six months ended June 30, Colt noted that its enterprise services revenues declined by €3.2m (1.1%) to €298.8m, “with declines in legacy Data and Voice services, particularly more commoditised offerings to smaller enterprise customers.” That was in turn offset by strong growth in Managed Service revenue, it said.

Services covered by the ThinkGrid platform include hosted virtual desktops, email, file sharing, cloud backup and voice services. ThinkGrid’s partner ecosystem already has 300 partners delivering public, private and hybrid cloud services and solutions for over 35,000 users. The deal will help ThinkGrid grow its business further. Publicly-traded Colt operates some 20 data centers and a business network across 22 countries in Europe, and has been around since 1992.

UK-based Colt has bought ThinkGrid to strengthen not only its cloud-services portfolio but the professional services it offers around it, specifically in the area of small and medium businesses.

Colt says ThinkGrid’s training programme, which helps develop resellers’ cloud capabilities, will be rolled out to Colt’s indirect sales team and channel partners. Colt says the deal will add 200 resellers and software vendors to its network in the UK.

“The acquisition of ThinkGrid further strengthens our position with the addition of a complementary range of cloud-based services,” noted François Eloy, EVP at Colt, in a statement announcing the deal. “We also gain a reseller-oriented management platform and portal which will reduce our time to market across our European markets. This acquisition allows us to extend our channel community to include skilled managed services resellers who will help us to accelerate our growth.”