Answers picks up for ForeSee for north of $200M

Customer experience analytics firm ForeSee helps companies predict and understand customer behavior

Financial trends and news by Steven Loeb
December 23, 2013
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When I think of Answers, I still think of it as the simple question and answers website it once was. The fact is, though, it has changed quite a bit in recent years, with the company expanding to become a platform with a suite of sites that provide those analytics and solutions to other verticals and websites.

The idea is to get content from Answers to sites all around the Web, in order to to help them boost brand engagement, retail sales and customer satisfaction. And the company is moving forward with that plan by acquiring customer experience analytics firm ForeSee, it was announced on Monday.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it was revealed that the deal was funded via a debt financing transaction led by SunTrust Robinson Humphrey and Silicon Valley Bank in Answers Corporation, and equity investments in AFCV Holdings LLC from existing investors, including Summit Partners, TA Associates, AFCV founders and management.

TechCrunch previously reported that the deal was worth over $200 million, and that the debt financing was worth more than $300 million. Answers CEO David Karandish has also confirmed these figures to VatorNews.

As per the deal, ForeSee will retain total autonomy," a ForeSee spokesperson told me. That means that the company will be keeping all of its current employees, as well as staying in the same offices in Ann Arbor.

Founded in 2001, ForeSee works with some of the world's biggest companies in order to help them figure out how the customer experience on their websites, call centers, brick-and-mortar locations and mobile apps impacts loyalty sales.

The company's research allows it to go deeper than simply asking customers what they like.

For example, research about top holiday retailers can show how a good or bad store and customer experience will predict how likely people are to shop more, return to that store and recommend it to others.

By acquiring ForeSee, Answers will now be able provide its customers with a full suite of solutions that span the customer life cycle, from optimizing customer acquisition to analyzing the customer experience to predicting future customer behavior.

This is a mutually benefitial acquisition: for ForeSee, its customer will have now have access to Answers' product offerings, including information from the company's other sites, as well as the other acquisitions that it has made in the last 18 months, ResellerRatings, Webcollage and Easy2.

For Answers, it means that its content will now appear on sites for half of the Fortune 500, and 82 of the top 100 retail sites, Karandish said. 

What really brought the two companies together, though, was a shared vision and approach.

"We are two tech driven companies, a shared vision: the ability to help consumers, brands and retailrs to make good decisions," he told me. "And, on the culture side, we are two Midwestern based companies, with Answers based in St. Louis and ForeSee in Ann Arbor. I'd say we both have a certain Mid-Western approach."

Being purchased by Answers was a great opportunity for the company, ForeSee CEO Larry Freed wrote in a blog post on Monday.

"Joining with Answers also allows us to be part of a full lifecycle solution, from optimizing customer acquisition to analyzing the customer experience to predicting future customer behavior," he said.

"It’s a partnership that makes a lot of sense for our business and for Answers and the suite of companies in its portfolio."

Founded in 1998 as GuruNet, and originally located in Jerusalem, the now St. Louis-based Answers, which calls itself “the world's top destination for trusted Q&A content,” operates, WikiAnswers, ReferenceAnswers, VideoAnswers, and five international language Q&A communities in Spanish, French, Italian, German and Tagalog.

Answers, which was purchased by AFCV Holdings in February 2011 for $127 million in cash. Its platform currently contains more than 17 billion answers, with a user base of 160 million. The site estimates that it gets 10,000 new registered users every hour.

In the next 12 to 18 months, Karandish says that he wants Answers to have the "credible threat" of an IPO.

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