The Montgomery Tech conference is underway in Santa Monica, Calif. This is where the big media, tech, and telecom giants come to check out the 160 independent companies presenting their businesses here.
Cisco, Microsoft, IBM, Google , Disney, News Corp. -- 100 "buyers" in total are here checking out the start-ups and meeting with unfamiliar names that might make a good addition to their portfolios. Montgomery, a boutique M&A firm, arranged panels and presentations -- and also arranges 600 meetings between buyers and sellers.
Montgomery is behind some of the biggest deals in this space -- including News Corp.'s purchase of MySpace, the first spark of the wildfire social networking trend. It was the banker for Disney's acquisition of social network Club Penguin, Hearst's buy of new media company UGO Networks, Answers Corp.'s of Dictionary.com.
So everyone's wondering what acquisitions will come out of the conference this year. There are a couple interesting trends emerging. Location-based services are big this year-applications that provide users information based on exactly where they are.
We spoke to the CEO of Networks in Motion about his company that provides navigational services to Verizon, Sprint, AT&T, Alltel, and other mobile providers. It launched in mid 2003 and has over a million paying subscribers, making it a natural target for a mobile carrier or a GPS company like Garmin.
Some other trends- there's a whole new range of companies that create and manage the infrastructure for digital distribution. And there are a bunch of cutting edge advertising companies finding new ways to reach consumers wherever they are with more targeted messages than ever before. Those companies are just the sort Google has expressed interest in.
Has the M&A market slowed down? Not in this space. And with the IPO market pretty dead, a minority or majority stake sale is really the only exit strategy for these companies.
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