share
by Michael J. Shapiro | November 29, 2016

Upon closing its $1.65 billion acquisition of Cvent today, Vista Equity Partners announced it would merge the meetings-technology giant with Lanyon, another meetings-technology firm owned by Vista, and brand them both under the Cvent name. The merger is effective immediately, and the companies will combine their business operations in the coming year.

Cvent founder and CEO Reggie Aggarwal will serve as CEO of the combined company, while Lanyon CEO David Bonnette will work with the management team through the transition period. The company will maintain its headquarters in Cvent's Tysons Corner, Va., location, with a "significant office presence" in Lanyon's base city of Dallas, according to a press release.

The merger creates a privately held meetings-tech mega-company, with about 28,000 customers in 100 countries. Vista Equity Partners, which already owned Lanyon, Cvent's primary competitor, first announced its agreement to acquire Cvent back in April 2016. The scope of this proposed union was significant enough to capture the attention of the Department of Justice, which investigated for months before finally approving the acquisition last week. 

Now that the former competitors are officially joining forces, M&C caught up with Reggie Aggarwal to discuss what's next for the new entity. (Questions and answers have been edited for length and clarity.)

M&C: How quickly are we going to see this transition to a combined Cvent?

Aggarwal: We will be operating under the Cvent brand, and the Lanyon brand will go away. Of course, there's always a transition time for that, to physically do that across all the different areas. But we'll be operating from this point on as Cvent. But I want to stress that we will continue to support both the Cvent platform and the Lanyon platform, so that our customers aren't impacted.

Do you have a timeframe or a plan for which technologies will be combined when?

We're looking at the road map right now, as part of our integration efforts. We're going to see what makes the most sense. Our Cvent platform is going to proceed as it has; we're going to keep supporting our customers and investing in that. On the Lanyon platform, we have to look at it and get a better understanding. We're going to keep the products up, support our customers -- we want to make sure there is no disruption in their service. And then, over the integration period, we'll look at how we can get more synergies and what makes the most sense in terms of combining the products, and where and when. But that hasn't been determined. The big point is, all customers will have their products fully supported. A merger like this makes sense only if your customers are happy. That's our highest priority: Make sure our customers are happy and that whatever we do, their interests are put first. 

Can you estimate the transition period timeframe?

We'll need to spell out short-term, mid-term and long-term transition plans. We just haven't had our integration plan fully worked out simply because we haven't been able to talk with each other. That's what we'll be working on over the next few months. Remember, this is day one.

[Because Cvent was a public company, executives were limited in what they could share with a competitor before the deal was approved and subsequently closed.]

What changes are we going to see first?

We're going to invest heavily in our products and R&D and innovation. That's one of the biggest reasons we combined: to innovate more. Because when you have two companies, frankly, creating similar products in many areas, it's better not to invest so much energy into different products but to focus our energy instead into creating more innovation.

The second thing is customer service. We're going to continue to invest heavily in that. And it's not going to be business as usual -- it will actually be better for our customers because we can be more focused. 

We think that the business opportunity here to be the market leader, with combined resources and efficiency, is very exciting.

What can you tell us regarding reductions in the workforce?

We're evaluating our integration plan. I can't comment on whether there will be any reductions; what I can tell you is that Vista invested in this because it's a growth story. We're going to continue to grow. Combined, I think we're going to be even stronger as a market leader. I can't comment on layoffs yet because we first have to determine what we have to do to keep growing. But there's a ton of opportunity, not just in the U.S. but globally. We have to better understand each other's businesses before we can better understand our growth plan.

What do you have planned in the way of international expansion?

With Vista's capital behind us, it definitely opens up a lot of opportunities. They're a $20 billion fund, and they've really committed to this space. So we've got a lot of plans to expand internationally.

We're going to open up a Singapore office in the next quarter, and an Australian office. We're going to expand our presence in London, because between the two companies we already have a lot of employees there. Just by combining the two companies, our international business becomes much more significant. A little over half of what's spent on meetings and events is spent outside of North America. So the opportunity to automate everything that goes along with that half-a-trillion-dollar space is very exciting. We're going to be able to penetrate the global market much better by combining forces than we could by going at it alone.

There's been some concern in the marketplace, from both planners and hoteliers, about pricing and fees. For instance, Cvent and Lanyon traditionally have handled that differently on the hotel side. Any plans at this point in terms of the approach to fees?

We have no plans to change pricing because of the merger. Every year everyone always evaluates the situation, but there is no plan to change pricing more than what you would normally do on an annual basis. 

You've been reassuring customers on both sides you'll continue to keep them happy. What's your pitch to those who aren't current customers of either Cvent or Lanyon?

We have the largest, most sophisticated unified platform of products in the event management arena. And we now have the wherewithal, in terms of financial power and resources, to invest more than anyone in this space. And we have close to 700 people in client services, so we'll be there to service everyone on a global level. 

You've really focused on innovation in your future plans; but your competitors will no doubt point out that managing the sheer size of the combined company and integrating all of the moving parts could make innovation suffer. How do you manage to keep the innovation going when you've got all of those moving pieces?

That's a great question. But even before the merger, Cvent was the largest player globally. And we continued our growth and innovation, even though we had gotten much bigger. Now, we're investing more, by magnitudes, on R&D and on technology and innovation, compared to our closest competitors. We're getting more feedback, from 30,000 customers, than any other company in the space. So we think that by having the resources and by listening to our customers, and seeing so many types of situations, we're going to be able to be more innovative.

The other thing we're able to do with such a large technology company is to innovate in multiple areas -- across mobile, event management, sourcing, strategic meetings management, hospitality. When you put all those areas together, it's really a full platform. We're really excited to start this next chapter.