GateHouse’s UpCurve Acquires Closely to Complement ThriveHive

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GateHouse Media’s small and medium-sized business solutions provider UpCurve announced this morning that it has acquired Perry Evans’ Denver-based local/social tech company Closely. The company will be integrated into ThriveHive’s digital solutions, deepening UpCurve’s ability to aggregate and analyze SMB data.

The buy enhances ThriveHive’s data-driven product suite by marrying its guided marketing platform with social media management software and will integrate Closely’s mobile app, Perch. Evans, who was an early local digital pioneer at MapQuest, founded Closely in 2011. He will join ThriveHive as SVP of Product Strategy and Corporate Development, and Closely’s office in Denver will become a ThriveHive product and engineering hub. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“An awful lot of what we’ve been focused on at Closely is getting really close to the small business and becoming an everyday companion … in terms of the context around their social and mobile presence,” Evans told Street Fight. “And we’ve been moving more towards data-driven guidance and getting smarter about looking at their profile, looking at their activity, looking at their competitors, and using that to inform what kinds of things the business should be doing to improve the quality of their social marketing and presence.”

He notes that ThriveHive has similarly been pushing forward a data-driven approach to guided marketing, with a focus on core business presence services like website, search, and email. Like Closely, ThriveHive’s platform equips small businesses with best practices and actions to take in order to optimize their local marketing.

ThriveHive’s CTO Max Faingezicht said that the acquisition signaled a plan to really become the dominant player for SMB growth across the board. The combined company will continue to sell through GateHouse’s publications, but will also go to market through a wide variety of channel partners to reach SMBs at scale. Faingezicht said it was highly unusual to find two companies that were so philosophically aligned. 

“Both teams are well aligned not only in our shared vision but also in being almost maniacally centered on our customers and creating value for them,” said Faingezicht of the pairing. “So we want to make sure we keep this very powerful and valuable tool [Closely’s Perch] to help them grow. And then we pair it with more guided marketing focus and you have the best of both worlds.  So we’ll keep growing the user base of the mobile app, and then if there’s an opportunity to help them further through more actionable steps with our guided marketing platform.”

Faingezicht said ultimately the long-term vision for the pairing is a data play — and said that Closely’s rich social data set, which tracks informaiton for over 500,000 SMBs, would provide a foundation on which the company would build out its contextual learning and AI.

Evans noted that marketing is becoming “more and more alive” and what excited him most about the deal is in the concept of data-driven guidance — using contextual learning and AI to power marketing activity and giving SMBs a wide range of tools to help themselves in a holistic way. 

Closely’s Perry Evans at Street Fight Summit earlier this year in Brooklyn

“Every SMB is getting more and more disconnected with the ability to pull together what they should be doing by themselves,” said Evans. “So while isolated tools can succeed in a DIY model, you’re really not solving the business’ need in terms of what the optimal marketing strategy should be.  We found that we kept hitting a wall — doing things in social in isolation is one thing, but really what you want to be doing is connecting with their customer list and interaction. … The concept of pioneering something that became much more integrated and really builds on that model of guidance was the vision that captured ThriveHive’s and my collective imagination.”

Aside from the clear synergies, Evans said that looming industry consolidation was also part of the impetus for the deal. He said he saw early signs of aggregation and M&A activity happening around the concept of an integrated marketing stack for SMBs.

“My philosophy has always been that if you see that [kind of consolidation] happening, you want to get ahead of it, pick your ideal partner, define your point of view in the market and go execute,” Evans said. “You want to stay ahead of the curve rather than wait and see what happens and potentially end up in a second-tier team.”

David Hirschman is co-founder and CEO of Street Fight.