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PHOTO: Commodore Gandalf Cunningham

Another investment firm has acquired a big piece of the marketing technology space. Centerbridge Partners has announced a definitive agreement to acquire IBM’s marketing platform and commerce software offerings. The news came yesterday in an IBM press release. The most recent similar acquisitions by investment firms in the digital marketing space include EQT's $1.14 billion acquisition of Sitecore in 2016 and Insight Venture Partners' $1.16 billion buy of Episerver in September.

The transaction is expected to close in the middle of this year. Centerbridge will form a standalone company and will announce a new name and brand identity, which will be launched after close, company officials said. It will be led by Mark Simpson as CEO, along with other IBM executives, and will move its headquarters to New York City. Simpson is currently vice president of offering management and strategy for the IBM Marketing Platform and Commerce offerings. 

IBM’s marketing and commerce software offerings include:  

  • Campaign Automation 
  • Marketing Assistant 
  • Media Optimizer 
  • Customer Experience Analytics 
  • Content Hub 
  • Real-Time Personalization 
  • Personalized Search 
  • Universal Behavior Exchange 
  • Intelligent Bidder 
  • Price & Promotion Optimization 
  • Payments Gateway 

The offerings include marketing automation tools, marketing analytics, an AI-powered content management system, an open ecosystem connector and services. IBM plans to work with Centerbridge on cloud and AI, according to Inhi Cho Suh, general manager at IBM. Financial terms and conditions of the transaction were not disclosed.

In other customer experience software news ...

CDP Institute Releases RealCDP

Confused by Customer Data Platforms (CDPs)? The Customer Data Platform Institute thinks you are. It launched this week RealCDP, a program designed to reduce the confusion plaguing CDPs. According to a press release, RealCDP has two components: RealCDP certification, a five point checklist of core capabilities needed to build a unified, sharable customer database; CDPFinder templates and vendor information to help buyers find the right CDP for their needs.

"The CDP industry faces two challenges," CDP Institute Founder David Raab said in the press release. "First, many firms offering a CDP or CDP alternative fail to build the complete, shareable customer database that is the heart of the CDP concept. Second, legitimate CDPs vary hugely in the additional features they provide, leaving buyers confused by the range of options."

The CDP Institute will certify compliance with the RealCDP checklist and authorize qualified vendors to display a "RealCDP badge." The CDPFinder program provides templates for use case definition, vendor screening and RFP documents. 

Segment Secures $175M

Speaking of CDPs. Segment, a customer data infrastructure provider, announced this week a $175 million round of new funding. The Series D round was co-led by existing investors Accel, GV and new investor Meritech Capital. Thrive Capital, Y Combinator Continuity, and eVentures also participated in the round, as well as new investor Sapphire Ventures.

The funding round brings Segment’s total amount of money raised to $284 million. Officials said the 350-employee company will use the money to accelerate global expansion, develop its platform and invest in go-to-market activities and the Segment partner network. Segment calls itself CDI in its press release. The CDP Institute lists Segment as a CDP provider.

Lytics Releases Audience Discovery 

Lytics, another CDP provider, announced the release of Audience Discovery. Company officials said the platform will help enterprise marketers unlock insights about their customers and increase conversions. The platform uses predictive modeling to analyze movement between audiences. It produces insight that provide direction for new campaign tactics.

Amazon Debuts Topical Chat Dataset 

Amazon has announced its intention to make available the Topical Chat dataset, which is a collection of human-human social conversations from crowd workers that will be released publicly on Sept. 17.

The dataset is developed for teams competing in the Alexa Prize Socialbot Grand Challenge 3. The application period closes May 14. The Topical Chat dataset will consist of more than 210,000 utterances (over 4,100,000 words), which Amazon officials said makes it the largest social conversation and knowledge dataset available publicly to the research community. The goal? Support research in knowledge-grounded neural response generation systems, tackling hard challenges in natural conversation that are not addressed by other publicly available datasets. Researchers can focus on the way humans transition between topics, knowledge-selection and enrichment and integration of fact and opinion into dialogue, officials said.

Accenture Acquires Droga5

Accenture Interactive has entered into an agreement to acquire Droga5, a creative agency based in New York. The move boosts Accenture's capabilities as an Experience Agency able to design, build and run customer experiences, company officials said. Financial terms of the agreement have not been disclosed.

Founded in 2006, Droga5 ​has more than 500 employees in New York and London. It has worked with Amazon Prime Video, Tourism Australia, The New York Times, IHOP and Game of Thrones.

Integrate Acquires Akkroo

Integrate, a demand orchestration provider, has acquired London-based B2B event lead capture company Akkroo. With Akkroo, Integrate’s customers can send event leads to sales teams and don't have to wait for event organizers to share lists post-event or manually processing paper forms and business cards, company officials promised. 

The $34 million acquisition is Integrate’s second in three months. In January, the company announced its acquisition of New York-based ListenLoop to grow its set of tools and solutions for account-based marketing (ABM) advertising. 

E-Spirit Partners with Cloudinary

E-Spirit, a digital experience platform provider, and Cloudinary, a media management platform, are partnering. The partnership features e-Spirit’s FirstSpirit hybrid content management system (CMS) and Cloudinary’s Digital Asset Management (DAM) solution to help companies process and manage media assets, including images and videos.  

Blueshift Launches CDAP Platform

Blueshift, a marketing technology provider, announced the launch of a Customer Data Activation Platform (CDAP). The release of Blueshift's App Framework completes its CDAP and gives companies the power to use their data to power AI-optimized customer experiences across customer engagement applications. 

SurveyMonkey Releases AI Features

SurveyMonkey, a survey software company, has expanded survey text analysis capabilities of its product platform with new AI-based features. The text analysis features help to uncover insights that align with SurveyMonkey’s enterprise customer base. It includes Sentiment Analysis, which surfaces insights by automatically classifying text responses and displaying an aggregate view of respondent sentiment.  

Squelch Adds $12M in Funding

Squelch, a provider of customer experience optimization, has earned $12 million in funding from current backers Shasta Ventures and Correlation Ventures, alongside new investor Tenaya Capital. The additional capital will help accelerate the growth of Squelch's sales and marketing programs.