Zilker Technology Rides the Wave of E-commerce Demand
March 17, 2021
When Zilker Technology co-founders Rob Thomas and Sean Wyrick attended 7MA’s annual conference in 2019, they noticed a shift in the conversations they were having with other businesses and with investors. They decided it was time to test the M&A market for Zilker, a digital consultancy and systems integrator with deep experience in a number of sectors.
Not surprisingly, Zilker’s co-founders turned to 7 Mile Advisors, with whom they had built a relationship over several years. “It came down to trust and credibility. It’s a very, very big decision to entrust the future of your company,” says Rob Thomas, CEO of Zilker. “Having a good guide in that process is really important.”
On this episode of Deal Talk with 7MA, 7 Mile Advisors Senior Associate Sydney Scadden sits down with Rob and Sean to talk about selling their company to Ernst & Young in October 2020.
Zilker entered the deal process with a clear picture of what was most important — finding a good cultural fit between their company and the buyer — and how they would guide their 300+ employees through the decision.
Through it all, Zilker continued to innovate in the E-commerce sector, where the realities of COVID turned up demand for the technologies that create efficiencies and seamless experience through the whole customer journey.
Tune in to episode 31 to hear more about Zilker’s journey to acquisition and what lies ahead in the world of digital transformation.
💡 Featured Guest 💡
Name: Rob Thomas
What he does: Rob was the CEO and Co-founder of Zilker Technology, which was founded in 2014 as a digital transformation company helping clients achieve growth from technology investments. He’s currently a Partner in EY’s Technology Consulting group.
Company: Zilker Technology, purchased by EY in October 2020
Words of wisdom: “What really excites me about the future is that the Zilker team has a bigger platform in EY to not only build their careers but also to drive long-term client value — which they like, which we like, and which clients like.”
💡 Featured Guest 💡
Name: Sean Wyrick
What he does: Sean was CTO and Co-founder of Zilker Technologies, where he realized a lifelong dream of establishing and building a company from the ground up. He’s now a Partner within EY’s Technology Consulting group.
Company: Zilker Technology, purchased by EY in October 2020
Words of wisdom: “When we started looking at companies and doing some meetings … we spent time, just the four of us [co-founders] and said — What’s most important? What do we like most about Zilker and what we’ve accomplished? — and culture was our number one thing.”
🗝️ Key Points 🗝️
Top takeaways from this episode
- Hone your focus. Zilker’s co-founders went into acquisition talks knowing that it was most important to find a good fit for their company’s culture, a focus that guided early conversations, the ultimate decision to sell to EY, and plans for the future of the company.
- Timing is key. Zilker played it close to the vest when it came to sharing the deal process with their team, understanding that employees’ questions could be best answered once all of the details were in place.
- The new edge of e-commerce. 2020 opened a wide window of opportunity for consultants like Zilker as businesses of all sizes work to further optimize the end-to-end customer journey with the help of technology.
⚡ Episode Insights ⚡
[04:13] Sensing a sea change: Rob and Sean noticed a shift in the way investors were talking about their company and decided it was time to test the market.
[06:24] Start the conversation early: Rob and the team at Zilker began growing a relationship with 7MA when they were only about 18 months into their venture, building trust and credibility for several years before they entered the market.
[08:37] Identify what’s most important: Zilker’s four co-founders focused on finding a good fit for their company’s culture and for the development of their employees
[10:52] Keep your inner circle small: When Zilker was ready to test the market, they kept the initial conversation to the company’s four co-founders. They chose to announce the deal only after it was done, to allow themselves time to think through how best to guide their 360 employees through the transition.
[15:16] Finding the right match: Rob and Sean discuss what excited them about working with an ambitious strategic buyer like EY.
[19:37] E-commerce and the COVID effect: The closures of brick-and-mortar stores in early 2020 revealed opportunities for technology consultants like Zilker to help clients optimize their customer journeys in the ecommerce space.
[26:33] Skills in demand: Shifts in the need for customer solutions has created a hot market for technical skills and employees with experience in tech platforms.
[27:25] Looking to the future: The demand for flawless customer experience will continue, and Zilker is ready to meet the challenge thanks to the expanded platform and opportunities that EY provides.
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Deal Talk with 7MA, a bi-weekly podcast by 7 Mile Advisors that aims to give listeners a look behind the curtain of the middle-market Mergers & Acquisitions world. 7 Mile Advisors is a middle-market M&A firm based out of Charlotte, NC, that provides investment banking services and advice on mergers, acquisitions, and private capital transactions around the globe.
Top quotes from the episode:
[06:05] “We ultimately found a buyer that was a great fit for our team. Had we not found that buyer, then we’d still be an independent company. But we found a really great buyer, where our culture was aligned and our capabilities were an almost exact fit for them.”
[08:56] “When we started looking at companies and doing some meetings … we spent time, just the four of us [co-founders] and said — What’s most important? What do we like most about Zilker and what we’ve accomplished? — and culture was our number one thing.”
[13:40] “We announced it [the transaction] to the company when we had actually signed the purchase agreement. We were able to really think through and anticipate what types of questions we would get from the company and from the team, and we were able to sit down and spend the time necessary to start to get people comfortable with the decision.”
[16:33] ”EY is on this next wave journey, and they didn’t just want to bring Zilker in for our technical skills. … They also like the fact that we have experience in building and executing in technology consulting. So they brought us in and gave us a seat at the table in terms of helping to build the strategy and grow the strategy moving forward. It was a really warm hug, so to speak, of everything that we do. And that’s why it just was such a perfect fit. The decision was very easy.”
[23:16] “We’ve started to shift as a society more to those digital touchpoints and interactions with the companies that we purchase from. It’s easy to take those orders, as long as you’ve got the infrastructure in place and you’ve got the website in place. … But the fulfillment side of this is where people are really differentiating right now and being able to provide that premium white glove experience from order to package receiving, and even potentially returns.”
[29:55] “What really excites me about the future is that the Zilker team has a bigger platform in EY to not only build their careers but also to drive long-term client value — which they like, which we like, and which clients like.”