The Mindjet-Spigit merger: What it all means

Mindjet-Spigit mergerMindjet, the developer of the popular MindManager mind mapping software program and team collaboration tools, has announced it is merging with Spigit, a leading provider of enterprise innovation management and crowdsourcing tools. Here’s my view of what it all means.

The announcement proclaims that this combination creates “the first business platform that effectively manages innovation from idea creation to opportunity selection to project completion.” As the former publisher of InnovationTools.com, I got an up-close look at the evolving world of innovation management platforms, including those offered by Spigit. Both companies have always been leaders in their respective areas of expertise. So, naturally, I was keenly interested in figuring out what this merger means to the customers of both companies. Here is what I’ve been able to discern so far.

The reality appears to match the hype

Mindjet and Spigit appear to have very complementary products. So, 2+2 could really equal 5 as they join forces. Innovation management and crowdsourcing platforms all do several things very well. They enable enterprises to:

  • Set up campaigns to solicit ideas
  • Invite groups of people – whether employees or outsiders – to contribute their best ideas in a shared, secure workspace
  • Other participants can rate the ideas, add to them, comment on them and follow them (typical social “conversation” type features)
  • Enable a smaller team of campaign managers to rate the contributed ideas against a set of pre-determined criteria to help “surface” the best ideas for further consideration

But innovation management platforms like Spigit have always been somewhat siloed. They are excellent tools for gathering and evaluating ideas, but don’t help companies to implement them. That’s where Mindjet and its visual thinking and collaboration tools come in. They can help innovation teams to plan and execute on the best ideas within a rich, visual environment. With the latest enhancements just announced in Mindjet 14, innovation teams can even do quantitative analyses of ideas, assigning weighting to each criteria, playing “what if” with them and using its conditional logic to show where potential problems may occur.

So Mindjet plus Spigit does equal an end-to-end innovation solution, what Mindjet is calling “The Vision to Action Lifecycle.” (click here to read the company’s new white paper that explains this concept).

Who is acquiring whom?

At first, I was a bit dismayed, because it appeared that MindManager may be going away. But as I explored what Mindjet is saying on its announcement site and what other analysts are starting to say about the merger, it quickly became clear that Mindjet has roughly three times the employees of Spigit. Together, according to Mindjet CEO Scott Raskin, the newly-merged entity will have about 400 employees and roughly $100 million in sales. Spigit CEO Paul Pluschkell will become Mindjet’s chief innovation officer, according to an article on the AllThingsD website.

Why was Spigit looking for a partner?

Based on everything I’ve seen in the innovation management space, the offerings of the major vendors have all started to look the same. As described earlier, they all perform basically the same functions. So barring a major innovation that would rock the marketplace and advance the state of the art of web-based innovation management, the only way for Spigit to differentiate itself was to align itself with another company that could complement and extend its services to other parts of the innovation process.

Also, AllThingsD reported this morning that Spigit’s funding was based on an estimated $40 million in venture capital from Warner Pincus, and that the company was having trouble paying its loans. I can’t verify that, but can only speculate that by now, most of the large enterprises that saw the benefit of a web-based, collaborative platform for gathering and managing ideas have already invested in a solution from Spigit or one of its competitors. Revenues were continuing to grow into 2013, but perhaps not enough to repay its investors at an acceptable pace. In short, it’s likely that Spigit needed a partner to continue to meet its growth targets and be able to pay back its investors.

What does Mindjet get out of this deal?

The growth of mind mapping software in enterprise environments has been challenging. Mindjet says its visual thinking tools are used by 80% of the Fortune 500, but typically these implementations start out as islands of users, executives who need to think and plan more effectively. As usage of its mind mapping tool grows organically within and across teams, the next step is to get the buy-in of the IT department, which has an absolute lock on the desktops of corporate employees. Mindjet has invested significant money and manpower in enterprise sales development to make sure this happens. You might call it this a “bottom-up” selling process.

The merger with Spigit promises to give Mindjet’s visual thinking and collaboration tools greater visibility in the C-suite, which is where Spigit’s customer contacts typically reside. MindManager is a potent tool for strategic planning; when it is offered alongside Spigit’s well-designed innovation management platform, the result should be even greater “top-down” penetration for the practice of mind mapping at higher levels of the enterprise.

Like Spigit, this merger promises to be an important differentiator for Mindjet’s products and services. MindManager will no longer be viewed as just a brainstorming and project management tool – like its major competitors – but one that is an essential element in a repeatable, structured innovation process – a bigger, more strategic role.

What’s next?

In the next several days, I hope to arrange an interview with Mindjet CEO Scott Raskin to learn more about the thinking behind the Mindjet-Spigit merger, how both companies’ products and services are expected to evolve, and much more. Watch the blog and my social media channels for more details as they become available.

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