Belgium's Insites Consulting aims for global expansion with Dutch investor

02 October 2018

Belgian research and marketing consulting agency Insites Consulting has received financial backing from Dutch private equity firm Mentha Capital. “The timing feels perfect to bring on board a strategic investor to support us in our global growth ambitions,” said Kristof De Wulf, co-founder and CEO of InSites Consulting.

The Ghent-headquartered consultancy was founded in 1997 by Kristof De Wulf, Joeri Van den Bergh, Tim Duhamel and Niels Schillewaert as a spin-off of the Vlerick Business School – all four were affiliated with Belgium’s top private business school. Under their leadership, Insites Consulting has grown to a mid-sized international firm, employing around 220 employees who together generate more than €30 million in revenues.

Insites Consulting supports its clients with a combination of market research and marketing consultancy services. Offerings include leveraging consumer insights, product launch support and innovation management, bolstering brand awareness and reputation, market entry strategies from a consumer perspective, customer experience management and market research consulting. Customers that stand out on its client roster include brands such as BBC, eBay, Heineken, IKEA, L’Oréal, Mastercard, Philips, Volkswagen, Uber and Unilever.

Over the past three years, Insites Consulting has seen strong growth, averaging a compounded growth rate of 15%. This growth was driven by organic growth in existing countries, geographic expansion into new markets (e.g. Germany in 2016) and M&A – last year the Belgian consultancy closed the first deal in its 20+ year history. The acquisition of Sydney-based Direction First provided Insites Consulting a foothold in Australia, which is according to CEO De Wulf the 8th largest research market in the world and the 3rd largest when it comes to online research usage (as a % of total spend).

Belgium's Insites Consulting aims for global expansion with Dutch investor

Looking ahead, the firm’s founders have however raised the bar for their aspirations. “Over the last few years, we have been working hard to develop scalable foundations for growth: our proprietary digital technology platforms, a strong people and consulting practice, our global delivery model and a global brand reputation. Now, we intend to achieve steep global growth in the coming years,” said De Wulf. “We are convinced that Mentha Capital is the right partner for us.”

Founded in 2006, Mentha Capital is a Dutch private equity firm that typically closes investments of between €5 million and €20 million. While the majority of its portfolio is based in the Netherlands, the investor is also active in Belgium. Mentha Capital for instance in 2016 acquired a majority stake in telecom operator Destiny, and the company holds a majority share in Ardena, an agency that helps enterprises in the biotech and pharma industries with research activities.

The Dutch have taken a majority stake in Insites Consulting, with all current shareholders – the co-founders and more than twenty other professionals with an equity share – reinvesting in the new setup.

“We are excited about the prospect of working together closely and further strengthening our position as a global leading next-generation consultancy agency,” remarked Tim Duhamel, co-founder and CSO of InSites Consulting. “The aim is to expand our international footprint through organic growth and a focused buy-and-build strategy.” The group currently has offices in Rotterdam, London, New York, Düsseldorf, Timisoara and Sydney – while details on potential new locations or targets have not been disclosed.

Earlier this year in Belgium’s consulting market, BDO acquired two digital consultancy companies and integrated them into its Advisory division, while Dutch IT services firm Centric purchased Summit Retail, an IT services firm for the retail industry based in Torhout, a city near Bruges.

PwC bolsters Salesforce arm in Benelux and France with ABSI deal

09 April 2019

Accounting and consulting firm PwC has bolstered its Salesforce portfolio in the Benelux with the acquisition of ABSI. The move adds around 100 consultants and technology experts to its Salesforce practices in the Netherlands, Belgium and France. 

The move comes at a time when demand for Salesforce implementation services is rising rapidly. Salesforce is a provider of cloud-based systems that help companies build and nurture their (potential) clients through a rigorous and personalised customer relationship management approach. Over 150,000 companies today use Salesforce CRM to support their sales, service, commerce, marketing and e-commerce objectives. 

In the Benelux, ABSI was Salesforce’s first certified partner, back in 2002, and the firm has since grown into one of the region’s larger IT consultancies dedicated to the Salesforce platform. The company specialises in the implementation of Salesforce systems, the design of blueprints and business processes, the migration of data, and application integration.

“In a world that is digitising, organisations want to offer a personalised experience to customers, employees and business partners,” explained Maarten van de Pol, who leads PwC Advisory in the Netherlands. “The technological ecosystem of Salesforce meets this need – with the acquisition, PwC is strengthening its fast-growing digital transformation services on the Salesforce backbone.”PwC bolsters Salesforce arm in Benelux and France with ABSI dealThe integration sees ABSI’s 100-odd employees in Belgium (where the company was founded in 1995 in Brussels), the Netherlands (located in Nieuwegein, close to Utrecht) and France (Paris) join PwC’s ranks. As well as adding deep Salesforce expertise to its offering, PwC also expects to benefit from ABSI’s experience and propositions in the area of Dell Boomi, Sitecore, ServiceMax, Riva, Neurored and Ebsta. 

Doubi Ajami, founder and CEO van ABSI, remarked on the deal; “PwC and ABSI complement each other perfectly. Together we will be able to better serve our customers. While our focus remains 100% on Salesforce, thanks to the power and network of PwC we will also be able to work on broader projects at a strategic digital level.” 

PwC’s acquisitions in the Benelux build on previous Salesforce deals globally. At the end of 2017 the consulting firm for instance acquired UK-based cDecisions, shortly after it also bolted-on a Salesforce specialist in South Africa. The investments are part of PwC’s broader strategy to ramp up its technology consulting arm, amid a booming market for digital transformation services.  

Recently, PwC was named one of the globe’s top advisory and implementation partners for the Salesforce platform.