It has been an incredibly active year for the Tech Team at Fieldfisher across all our offices, concluding a number of transactions in the run up to Christmas. Whilst in many areas of the practice it was "business as usual", we did see a number of themes emerging in 2015. We also started to see areas which were once just part of TMT developing a whole specialist sector of their own.
The Paris office of Fieldfisher, led by partner Christopher Mesnooh, and associate Louis Leroy, advised Quotient Technology (formerly Coupons.com.) in its acquisition of the French company Shopmium.
Quotient, based in Mountain View, California, and trading on the NYSE, is a provider of digital coupons including online printable coupon codes, loyalty cards and other forms of mobile promotion. The company has over 2,000 brands from 700 consumer goods companies as well as other grocery, drug and mass-merchandise retailers, all of whom use its platform to engage with online shoppers. The company delivers digital coupons to consumers, including coupons and coupon codes, and displays advertising through a platform which includes web, mobile and social channels. It also delivers digital coupons to consumer goods companies, retailers and its network of approximately 30,000 third-party websites, or publishers, who display coupons and advertising on their websites.
Shopmium is a French start-up mobile shopping service that includes couponing and promotion, allowing various brands to send targeted coupons to mobile users. Shopmium's institutional investors included the private equity firms Accel Partners, ISAI Gestion and Ventech.
We also acted for new US client Merkle Inc on its acquisition of UK marketing agency Periscopix, Merkle's first acquisition in the UK. Merkle is the US's largest and fastest-growing data-driven performance marketing agency. Merkle combines a complete range of marketing, technical, data analytics and creative disciplines to offer complete integrated customer relationship management strategy and customer marketing solutions. We continue to advise Merkle in the adtech space as it looks to expand into Europe.
We continue to act for cutting edge technology brands on contentious trade mark matters, representing businesses as varied as iRobot Corporation, KK Trend Micro, Sonos Inc, SDL Plc and Google.
E-commerce / Retail
We advised a multitude of early-stage and mature e-commerce / retail companies on funding, IP, regulatory and commercial activities. One I would mention is e-commerce business Opun which we advised on its launch. Opun is an exciting new business; they are bringing together world-class trade experience, the latest technology and industry-leading guarantees to revolutionise home improvement. We predict big things for them in 2016.
We also acted for Quiqup on a multi-million seed funding round led by Delivery Hero and Global Founders Capital (the investment fund of Rocket Internet). Quiqup is a new on-demand delivery app with a key focus on food delivery. Delivery Hero (which operates the hungryhouse brand in the UK) is the largest global company in online food ordering. Quiqup provides an enhanced delivery experience across many verticals, including food, groceries, fashion and electronics. Whatever you need, Quiqup can get it now, all in under an hour. The app is offering bricks-and-mortar retailers the opportunity to compete in e-commerce by making their products immediately available to the consumer. For more see here.
Another interesting project has been our continued advice to eBay on the further extension of the Click & Collect Partnership with Argos. The Click & Collect scheme, which debuted in September 2013 originally allowed a select group of 50 professional eBay sellers to send items for collection at 150 Argos shops instead of buyers' home addresses. This "clicks and mortar" solution is at the cutting edge of retail thinking as the sector finds new ways to make the online shopping channel relevant to the high street. Our work in 2015 extended the deal to the whole Argos store chain and paved the way for greater high street coverage and new exciting services in the best future as the eBay and Argos partnership moves from strength to strength. See more here.
We also continue to act for a broad range of high street fashion brands on contentious trade mark matters and devising and enforcing online anti-counterfeiting strategies; representing Karen Millen, Coast, Oasis and Warehouse amongst others over the previous 12 months.
Retailers have been keen to stay ahead in a burgeoning year in the development of international e-commerce and we have been heavily involved in advising leading high street retailers on global e-commerce operations and platform integration, with a particular focus on Asian platforms, including T-Mall Global.
In addition, we have worked with several of our retail clients on a varied range of commercial tech matters specific to retail over the last year including advising on IT, maintenance and support; as well as cloud-based payroll software systems and human resources outsourcing. As the industry continues to rapidly evolve we expect more of our clients to be looking to streamline processes in the omnichannel environment during 2016.
The main theme developing is that healthy retailers must have a well-developed digital strategy harnessing the experiential side of their in-store business with their on-line offering. We will continue to advise retailers in relation to both clicks and bricks in 2016.
A team from Fieldfisher led by partner Graeme Nuttall OBE advised Agilisys on its transition to employee ownership. Agilisys is a fast growing IT and business services partner. Agilisys announced this move as a significant step forward in the evolution of their business, it has now created an Employee Ownership Trust (“EOT”), modelled on the approach of mutual companies such as John Lewis Partnership. This means that the trust holds the majority shareholding in the company on behalf of all employees. The EOT exists to secure the continuation of Agilisys as a successful, independent and professionally managed business for the benefit of its employees. The new structure will allow employees to have greater engagement and ownership in how the business operates and ensure that they benefit from its future growth and successes. EOTs were introduced following the findings of the influential ‘Nuttall Review of Employee Ownership’ for the Government in 2012. See more here.
Nano-technology / convergence of health and tech
2015 has seen an acceleration of the convergence between tech and healthcare, in areas such as diagnostic imaging, 3D printing, wearables, and other monitoring devices. The issues involved tend to be IP, regulatory and privacy related and all of these teams have seen in increase in this type of activity. This is clearly set to continue into 2016 and beyond.
In other areas which could well have health-related as well as many other uses we have seen considerable steps forward made by clients who are at the cutting edge of materials science. We hope to see further advances in fields such as graphene in 2016.
We worked with Fuse Universal on their $10million growth capital investment to disrupt the global learning technology market.
Education Growth Partners invested $10million to bolster traction in Corporate and Higher Education markets, expand sales & services operations in London, Cape Town and New York and accelerate the product roadmap.
Fuse Universal (Fuse) is a global learning technology company pioneering a new approach to online learning, knowledge sharing and communication in the workplace through its innovative technology platform, that supports continuous, social, blended and mobile learning. Fuse is uniquely positioned in the learning technology, digital content and higher education space. The Fuse platform is modular and flexible, acting as a total learning solution, integrating seamlessly into a company’s existing infrastructure, replacing legacy learning management systems (LMS) and communication tools or adding the modern elements that legacy platforms need to fully engage their learners. See more here.
We also advised the shareholders of Quipper on its sale to Recruit Holdings (which also gets a mention below in one of a number of Japanese transactions during the year). Quipper want to make the world a smarter, better connected place. Quipper wants to empower teachers and students by supplementing traditional methods with a platform that's powerful and exciting, but simple too. This is definitely going to be a continuing theme in 2016.
Financial Services / payment solutions and FinTech
We advised the shareholders behind Currencies Direct on its sale to Palamon Capital Partners and Corsair Capital. Palamon Capital Partners, a pan-European growth investor, and Corsair Capital, a leading private equity investor in global financial services have signed an agreement to jointly acquire control of Currencies Direct (“the Company”), a leading specialist provider of foreign exchange (“FX”) and international payment solutions to private and corporate clients. The transaction value exceeded £200 million. - See more here.
In addition to the above deal which we are able to talk about, we have been very active this year for a number of crowd-funders. This is an area which is fast becoming a mature part of the funding ecosystem and we would not be surprised to see one or more of the most established players contemplating an IPO in 2016 if market conditions are right. We continue to advise on deals as diverse as trading platforms and payment platforms and we will no doubt see more next year in the convergence space where technology meets financial services. The FCA is monitoring this area closely and we will be keeping a close eye on how the regulatory "sandbox" proposals will work in practice for the testing of innovative products and services. See more from our FinTech Team:
On the M&A front we have seen plenty of evidence of companies growing rapidly through acquisitions as it is becoming so important for companies whose business models rely on user numbers to expand across territories extremely quickly in order to get ahead of a crowded marketplace. We were particularly pleased to represent Tokyo-listed Recruit Holdings on its acquisition of Wahanda, the online marketplace for health, beauty and wellness, which has operations in the UK, Germany, Lithuania, France and the Netherlands. See more here.
It's been a busy year for us on broadcast technology, acting for major broadcasters and their suppliers. During 2015 we helped with new platforms, streaming and downloads, interactive TV, satellite, broadcast chain software and platforms and big data viewer analytics. One highlight was our work for Ericsson on their seven year deal for playout and media management services for the BBC. This is a major outsourcing of some of the BBC's critical infrastructure in the playout chain, a service which is vital to the BBC's ability to broadcast 24/7 without a hitch.
Privacy, cyber security and Silicon Valley
Our privacy team has specialists in all of our offices and they have had a particularly relentless year. They have been conducting a hectic schedule of interviews with journalists in the run up to the holiday period as we finally saw the agreed text for the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – significant for any business, regardless of their industry.
After years of debate, the negotiating parties agreed last week the text for the EU's new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) – aimed to bring Europe's ageing rules in line with the modern technological era.
This will impact every organisation, both public and private sectors and across all industries – as our Head of Privacy, Hazel Grant, explains: "this is the single most important change in data privacy law for the UK and EU in the last twenty years. It will affect all businesses, all over the world - as every organisation has employees and contacts, even if they don't have individual customers. Perhaps most notably there will be fines of up to 4% of global turnover meaning that every business will need to pay close attention to this area of compliance. Additionally, we will now see in the EU a requirement to carry out data breach notification. When personal information is lost or hacked, an organisation will be obliged to tell regulators and affected customers and employees.
See more here.
This in our Silicon Valley office have been expanding their practice rapidly, benefitting from being able to provide urgent advice in the same time zone to household names in the Valley.
We are expecting another buoyant year ahead in all of the above and other areas. Advertising technology, education technology, FinTech, health and wearables, e-commerce, IoT / cloud / Big Data and mobile payments will all see activity across all our practice groups. It may also be the year when virtual reality finally becomes actual reality! Those who don't have a digital strategy already will struggle. Those who have got their strategy right will thrive. We are expecting more activity in M&A and in IPOs as private funding rounds are beginning to show signs of tightening, at least in the US. We very much look forward to working with you again in 2016.
Wishing you a wonderful holiday season and a very prosperous new year
Wir wünschen Ihnen ein wundervolles Weihnachtsfest und ein erfolgreiches neues Jahr
Nous vous souhaitons de très belles fêtes de fin d'année et une nouvelle année très prospère