Private equity, Enterprise, Content

AHEAD Acquires Snowflake Partner Vertical Trail for Data, Analytics Expertise


AHEAD, an enterprise IT solutions provider and private equity-backed MSP, has acquired Vertical Trail -- a data and analytics consulting firm that partners with Snowflake, Dataiku and Tableau. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

Eric Kaplan, CTO, AHEAD
Eric Kaplan, CTO, AHEAD

This is technology M&A deal number 233 that ChannelE2E has covered so far in 2021. See all technology M&A deals for 2021 and 2020 listed here.

AHEAD CTO Eric Kaplan, in an interview with ChannelE2E, described how the IT solutions provider has successfully extended from multi-cloud infrastructure (Amazon Web Services, Google Cloud Platform and Microsoft Azure) to application and now data-centric expertise.

AHEAD, backed by private equity firms Centerbridge Partners LP and Berkshire Partners, is striving to grow both organically and through acquisitions. The overall strategy strives to ensure that AHEAD can "drive transformational business outcomes" for the company's clientele, Kaplan says.

Every customer, he adds, is striving to move faster and become more customer centric -- especially through the effective use of data.

AHEAD Acquires Vertical Trail: Expected Synergies

That's where Vertical Trail enters the picture. Based in Chicago, Vertical Trail helps large enterprises uncover high-value insights through modern, cloud-based data engineering and data science solutions, the buyer says.

In addition to data consulting skills, Vertical Trail has built a cloud-based accelerator known as the Troodon Analytics Hub. The hub is an automated data science environment consisting of storage, security, development, big data analytics, and visualizations, the seller says.

Vertical Trail's data and analytics expertise aligns well with AHEAD's portfolio of infrastructure, automation, security and modern apps solutions, the buyer says.

Larry Pollastrini, Vertical Trail
Robert Kourey, Vertical Trail

In a prepared statement about the deal, Robert Koury, a managing partner at Vertical Trail, said:

“Our passion is data, and we believe that the answers to today’s greatest business challenges lie within data. We’re thrilled to be joining the AHEAD team, where alongside their cloud infrastructure and modern apps solutions, we’ll be able to help our clients not only innovate faster, but more holistically.”

Koury, along with co-founder Larry Pollastrini, formed Vertical Trail in 2015. Both will join AHEAD’s solutions leadership team to help ensure a smooth integration, drive value for key clients, and chart the company’s course as it expands further into business data and analytics, the buyer says.

AHEAD Business Mix: Strategic Guidance, IT Projects, Managed Services and More

Instead of betting purely on IT projects or managed services revenue, AHEAD believes both areas of expertise remain critical to customers.

Also of note: Although AHEAD and Vertical Trail have software expertise, the businesses are not striving to transform into software companies.

In a world where enterprise customers want to work with fewer and more strategic partners, it's important for AHEAD to offer a deep portfolio of strategic consulting, IT project, application and managed services expertise, Kaplan says.

AHEAD Business Background, Acquisitions

AHEAD's current revenues are undisclosed. The company's headcount will surpass 1,100 employees amid the Vertical Trail acquisition, a spokesperson for AHEAD says.

In 2020, the company's annual revenue (including acquisitions at the time) was about $2.1 billion, according to a ChannelE2E report in September 2020.

Previous AHEAD mergers and acquisitions have included:

M&A Valuations, Next Potential AHEAD Moves

AHEAD remains in the market for potential acquisitions that may offer specific geographic or capability benefits. "We're always reinvesting in our business, our people, our offerings and our partnerships. And that includes exploring more acquisitions," Kaplan says.

Still, overall M&A activity has gotten frothy as some private equity firms, MSPs and other buyers leverage low-interest debt to snap up more businesses.

Without referring to AHEAD's own activities, Kaplan says some sellers are getting "outsized valuations" amid multiple technology, M&A, Wall Street and debt trends.

As for AHEAD, the company pursues the right deals at the right valuations. "The deals that are getting done are the ones where we have mutual respect and agreement on where the value sits," he says.

Joe Panettieri

Joe Panettieri is co-founder & editorial director of MSSP Alert and ChannelE2E, the two leading news & analysis sites for managed service providers in the cybersecurity market.