Experian QAS, who are the largest vendor of contact data management software with 11,000 customers globally, has acquired Intelligent Search, an identity resolution software vendor based in White Plains, NY. This is interesting in a number of ways.
Although Intelligent Search was a fairly small company (originally founded as long ago as 1993) with around 15 employees, it possessed advanced matching technology called Namesearch that Experian QAS coveted. Name and address matching is a tricky area, and there is no single approach that is definitively best in all cases. Plenty of solutions use algorithms that deal with common phonetic errors, but Namesearch additionally uses rule-based approaches (to deal with cultural name abbreviations such as Bob and Robert, commonly confused prefixes such as Mc and Mac and diminutives such as Billy or Bill for William). This combination of deterministic and probabilistic approaches is far from unique, but Namesearch had a good reputation as a matching algorithm, and one that Experian QAS can now apply to its broader solutions.
Beyond the technology, this is an example of Experian QAS acquiring needed technology rather than building it internally, a sensible approach given that there are a number of niche data quality vendors with interesting technology. The data quality market is highly fragmented, with a large number of small companies that address a particular geography or market niche, but Experian QAS has the size and marketing clout to bring interesting technology to a much broader market.
The fact that this was a US acquisition is also interesting. QAS was originally a UK company (based in Clapham) and has a significant slice of the crowded and relatively mature UK data quality market. Despite its generally leading edge reputation for technology, the US is, in many ways, a less developed market than the UK for data quality and contact data management, and Experian QAS has been expanding rapidly into this market in recent years. It frequently encounters prospect situations where there is no direct product competitor, an unlikely event in the UK. It has helped that some of its erstwhile rivals have been acquired by larger companies that don't have data quality as a core focus. This acquisition hints at the centre of gravity of Experian QAS moving westwards, something shown earlier by some key partnership relationships now being managed by Experian QAS in the US rather than the UK.
Buying rather than building speeds up the process of filling gaps in (or simply improving) functionality, and so is a logical step, and Experian itself has plenty of acquisition experience (including of course QAS itself). It opens up the intriguing possibility that Experian QAS may be looking in the future to spread its wings beyond its historically tight market of contact data management. If so then this may not be the last acquisition that it makes.