The news squeaked out last week that the U.S. Department of Justice, for a second time, has a few questions about the planned acquisition of Cvent by Vista Partners before it is willing to give its OK to the deal.
Although nobody’s talking, it does seem as if the problem might be the strategic meeting management (SMM) software component, which allows many of the meeting organizer’s needs to be met in one nice digital package.
Prior to the April announcement of the planned acquisition, Vista had bought up a handful of players in the event planning software space and wrapped them up to create Lanyon Solutions. At this point, between the two of them, Lanyon and Cvent control about 90 percent of the strategic meeting management market. In other words, a duopoly that potentially becomes a monopoly if owned by the same corporate parent.
Or does it?
Certainly Cvent and Lanyon are the big players now, but there are other, albeit smaller, competitors like Cendyn, etouches and MeetingEvolution. Find yourself stuck in a confined space with one of their salespeople and you’ll be forced to hear why they’re just as good or better than the big players.
Of course, they don’t have the marketing machine behind them the two giants have. In fact, the SMM component of the combined company would be so large, it’s hard to imagine stripping it out and going ahead with the sale if the Justice Department decides there’s an antitrust problem.
I’m not going to lose any sleep over Cvent investors. Even if this sale doesn’t work out, there are others waiting in line to acquire it.
However, it will be interesting to see the conclusion the Justice Department comes to. If it does decide the new company’s SMM product would constitute a monopoly, it would be saying there is no more room for innovation in strategic meeting management software. That’s it.
If, on the other hand, the department allows the sale to go forward, it would be saying that there is still room for improvement and we have not reached the point where consolidation is the next logical step in the technology’s evolution.
Not to suggest that the Justice Department will know what it’s talking about, but it will be an interesting signal, regardless of which way it goes.
Michael Hart is a business consultant and writer who focuses on the events industry. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.