GradesFirst delivers a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution to higher education institutions. The company’s comprehensive student support system empowers staff to identify and engage at-risk students while also measuring the effectiveness of retention efforts. Founded in 2006 by Mario Moore, GradesFirst grew up in the college athletics space and applied their expertise to successfully transition to serve more individual colleges and campus-wide customers.
While retaining student athletes is extremely important in the NCAA Division I arena, Mario recognized the limited overall size of that market as well as a burgeoning discussion around student retention on the academic side of campus. Over the course of several years, he and his team worked to reposition the company and its solution to serve academic advisors and tutors on the broader campus in that these roles were on the front lines of the increasing student attrition dilemma. With a strong pulse on the needs of these support staffers, GradesFirst demonstrated its ability to close enterprise-level deals and deliver a robust solution to colleges and universities across the U.S.
While on an impressive growth trajectory, the shift toward campus-wide installations meant that GradesFirst was selling to a new set of decision makers within higher-ed institutions. Confident that his company had the best technology and solution in the market, Mario realized that partnering with a larger organization with a well-established presence in the marketplace would enable GradesFirst to both efficiently engage and close a greater number of these enterprise-wide deals. Further, as a serious proponent of market research, Mario perceived that the industry was ripe for consolidation—specifically for companies addressing the student lifecycle—making 2014 the right time to execute a transaction. As a result, GradesFirst engaged Founders Investment Banking to identify a strategic partner whose platform and reputation in the industry would expedite the company’s next phase of growth.
This process identified Education Advisory Board (“EAB”), the higher education division of The Advisory Board Company and a trusted provider of research, technology, and consulting services. This transaction provided GradesFirst with a more prominent platform from which to tell its story and allowed EAB to expand its solutions to cover a critical point in the student lifecycle. The two teams also shared the same values and vision, making them excellent partners and a more holistic solution for the higher-ed industry. The process accomplished each of the following objectives:
- Full liquidity for the GradesFirst shareholders
- No relocation of the team or company headquarters, but rather, additional talent, including engineers and sales staff, added to the roster
- Ongoing roles and incentives for key management team members to assist in taking the business to the next level
- Provide the established EAB distribution network and trusted brand that gave GradesFirst access to and influence over the institutional c-suite, thus reducing the company’s sales cycle by 75%
In order to assist Founders Investment Banking with securities related transactions, including this transaction, its Principals are registered investment banking agents of M&A Securities Group, member FINRA/SiPC. M&A Securities Group and Founders are not affiliated entities.
About Founders Investment Banking
Founders Investment Banking (Founders) is a merger, acquisition & strategic advisory firm serving middle-market companies. Founders’ focus is on oil and gas, SaaS/software, industrials, internet, digital media and healthcare companies located nationwide, as well as companies based in the Southeast across a variety of industries. Founders’ skilled professionals, proven expertise and process-based solutions help companies access growth capital, make acquisitions, and/or prepare for and execute liquidity events to achieve specific financial goals. In order to provide securities-related services discussed herein, certain principals of Founders are licensed with M&A Securities Group, Inc. or Founders M&A Advisory, LLC, both members FINRA & SiPC. M&A Securities Group and Founders are unaffiliated entities. Founders M&A Advisory is a wholly owned subsidiary of Founders. For more information, visit www.foundersib.com.