A version of this article appeared in the Summer 2016 issue of strategy+business.
In the space of about 17 days in the spring of 2015, Boeing bought a company that develops aerial imaging software, Spanish bank BBVA bought a design studio that specializes in the online user experience, and MasterCard purchased an analytics company that helps convenience store owners figure out what they should sell at the checkout counter.
The three deals barely registered on Wall Street. 2d3, the imaging company that Boeing bought for US$25 million, was a tiny 40-employee outfit. Spring Studio, BBVA’s acquisition, was similar — just 38 workers. Although MasterCard’s deal for Applied Predictive Technologies was larger, the $600 million purchase price (and the addition of some 300 employees to MasterCard’s payroll) had virtually no impact on the company’s share price.
Yet to dismiss these deals as inconsequential because of their limited immediate impact would be to miss the point. None of the deals was a “one and done.” The deals were among the at least seven, eight, and 10 digital acquisitions made by BBVA, MasterCard, and Boeing, respectively, since 2011. Other brick-and-mortar companies were even more active during that period. For instance, Siemens has bought or invested in at least 28 digital properties, General Electric at least 22.
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