I sensed some level of disappointment—and even confusion—among loyal readers when we eschewed singling out a single firm as our Integrator of the Year for 2017 and instead looked at the industry’s rapid growth and influx of cash that’s leading to the so-called Mega-Integrator.
And, while I certainly understand that people like things to be simple, I feel more justified than ever in our selection after yesterday’s news that Biamp Systems was acquired by private investment firm Highlander Partners.
That Biamp another sign that the firms with the big bucks want in on the AV space.
Sure, Biamp is a manufacturer rather than an integrator, but clearly, private equity and venture capital firms have their focus trained squarely on this market and are finding creative ways to get themselves involved with it as it continues to mushroom and more money keeps coming in.
In this case, Highlander Partners took the shrewd step of naming former AMX CEO Rashid Skaf as Biamp’s new president, CEO and co-chairman.
Whether that means Highlander will stay involved with Biamp longer than the typical three- to five-year window of most private equity investment firms remains to be seen, but clearly Skaf is no stranger to this space and won’t need a crash course on succeeding in it, unlike most outside investment firms that come in with general business expertise but nothing specific to the AV industry in which they’re now dumping stacks of money.
I know a lot of you are feeling a little uneasy about all the consolidation and the amount of money changing hands as soon-to-be-billion-dollar integrators like AVI-SPL and Diversified seemingly wrap up big deal after big deal and other mid-size firms are faced with deciding whether to acquire someone else or be acquired to meet their growth strategies.
And, certainly when you’re talking about private equity and venture capital money, typically there’s a short lifecycle that often means another big deal or the end of a particular company, the simple fact there’s so much interest in AV integration right now is a good thing in my mind.
It means companies that are looking for ways to make money quickly believe there’s a lot of opportunity to do that right now in this area and that’s something integrators and manufacturers should pay attention to if they expect to survive the tumultuous ride.
I’m sure there are about 650 people who once drew paychecks from Harman who’d disagree with me that consolidation and outside investments are good for the AV industry, but there are plenty of examples of how those deals have served to advance the cause, from Verrex’s continued global growth to Genesis Integration’s move to become a national powerhouse across Canada.
Even PSNI went global this year and USAV Group joined the PSA Security Network as signs of the direction the AV industry is going. And, of course, InfoComm International became the Audiovisual and Integrated Experience Association [AVIXA], a nod to the changing focus in the space.
If you’re not already having conversations about buying another firm or selling your firm at least internally, you should start now.
The era of consolidation and big-money transactions is just getting cranked up and I expect to see it go on well into 2018 and likely beyond. Those who are ready to make the best deals will be the happiest on the other side.