I’ve always been drawn to the dynamics that contribute to a successful team effort. Growing up, I played baseball and football through high school and college. Indeed, I still play competitive baseball. While I enjoy the athletic endeavor of playing sports, it is the common traits of winning teams that have always captured my true interest. In my experience, these traits boil down to three distinct characteristics: a strong sense of shared purpose, embracing the inter-dependent nature of relationships among teammates, and a deep camaraderie that forms through overcoming challenges together.
As the Vice President of Corporate and Business Development at Vocera Communications (“Vocera”), I spend the majority of my time reaching outside our own core business to build broader coalitions that can produce more value for customers than Vocera could achieve on its own. In short, I am constantly looking to expand our broader “team.” Sometimes that happens through a strategic partnership and sometimes it happens through an acquisition.
Today, we are excited to announce that Vocera has acquired Extension Healthcare (“Extension”). This is the most significant acquisition in our company’s history, coming on the tailwinds of two plus years of accelerating business momentum at Vocera. By teaming up with Extension, we will be able to provide the most robust and comprehensive clinical communications and collaboration offering on the market, without exception. Customers will clearly benefit from a tightly integrated, scalable, enterprise-class platform that enables stronger person-to-person and system-to-person workflows within a single system from a single vendor.
Like the individuals that make up a good sports team, each of these two companies has strong attributes on their own, with best of breed technologies in their respective market segments and large supportive customer bases. Vocera is a recognized leader in clinical communications systems with over 1,300 facilities installed; and Extension is a recognized leader in clinical alarm and event management workflow software with 230 healthcare customers. But it is the compatibility on softer issues – many of which map to the aforementioned successful team characteristics – that has me really excited about the potential for outsized success with this combination.
Shared Passion, Common Purpose
From the outset of the courting process with Extension, it was clear our two companies shared a number of common passions. In the early diligence meetings, when we were getting to know the Extension team better, I was struck by the similarity of the language the two respective management teams used to describe their motivations for being in business. Indeed, it sounded like we were already on the same team, singing from the same hymnbook. Vocera and Extension are both mission-driven organizations equally passionate about trying to solve the complex and thorny challenges related to communicating inside and outside of hospitals and coordinating care. Both companies firmly believe in using innovative technology solutions to empower doctors and nurses to provide better care in a more efficient manner. And both companies take enormous pride in the periodic emails and calls they receive from delighted customers describing how their respective solutions helped clinicians provide better patient care and even, in some cases, saved a life.
In addition to our common commitment to improving patient care, Vocera and Extension share other important core business beliefs. For example, both companies are extremely customer-centric, something especially important in a market where each hospital’s environment is unique. Like Vocera, Extension has built robust professional services and support teams to ensure successful implementations, regardless of complexity. In addition, both companies have a track record of building enterprise-grade products by employing the requisite discipline around thoughtful architecture planning, QA, and scalability testing. Simply stated, both Vocera and Extension understand the sober responsibility of providing communications and collaboration technologies that clinicians depend on to make critical life-saving decisions.
Embracing Our Complimentary Nature
Vocera and Extension have been working together for years before this acquisition. We have collaborated many times and share more than 40 hospital customers across the United States, including several medical centers within the Veterans Health Administration. These customers have all come to the same conclusion that led us to this acquisition: combining the respective leaders in clinical communications and event-driven workflow collaboration yields a winning solution.
Vocera was founded 16 years ago as a hardware-centric startup with a point product, the revolutionary hands-free Vocera Communication Badge. Since then, we have evolved into a communications and collaboration software platform that supports a variety of other communications devices from vendors like Apple and Zebra. Over our company’s history, our value proposition has evolved from one based on pure communications to one centered on true clinical workflow. Acquiring Extension is an exclamation point on that evolutionary path and helps us to achieve the desired functionality and commercial maturity in workflow that otherwise would have taken us years to develop on our own.
Extension, on the other hand, was founded in 2009 as a clinical middleware software company that connects a variety of different HCIT systems. Over time, they evolved the offering to be an alerts and alarms management platform. And more recently, they started to add new communications features to the solution to enhance the completeness of their workflow functionality. As a private company with constrained resources, Extension saw an opportunity to accelerate their vision of delivering a comprehensive clinical communications and collaboration offering by teaming up with Vocera.
Looking forward, Vocera and Extension were perhaps destined to become more competitive in the future. And while there is some modest overlapping functionality in the combined entity today, the core strengths of the respective companies are highly complementary. The real winners of this combination will be hospitals and health systems who understand that secure texting is a grossly insufficient solution and who seek a robust and powerful clinical communications and collaboration solutions from a single vendor. And like good teammates on an athletic field, Vocera and Extension both see an opportunity to feed off of one another’s strengths. Post-acquisition, we expect the opportunity to cross-sell into our respective customer bases will be substantial, and that we will be able to accelerate the number of enterprise-wide and system-wide deployments together.
M&A processes are often fairly contentious. The diligence effort is taxing and both sides want to maximize value for their shareholders. And yet, the Vocera and Extension teams share so much in terms of purpose and mutual respect that a promising camaraderie blossomed between the two management teams over the past couple of months. As any experienced corporate executive will tell you, alignment of culture is a critical factor in successful M&A outcomes. So it was especially heartening when it became clear that our two companies have the same values and ethos. At one point midway through the diligence process, our CEO Brent Lang said to the Extension senior management team, “We’re a Silicon Valley company, but we’ve got a Midwestern culture and values.” To which Extension’s CEO Todd Plesko replied, “That’s funny. We describe ourselves as a Midwestern company with a Silicon Valley heart and innovative spirit.”
There is lots of hard work in front of us to achieve our common goal, “To create the most powerful clinical communication and collaboration platform on the market to empower providers to deliver care that improves the lives of healthcare professionals, patients and families,” but I am thrilled to see all of the right team characteristics are in place for this to be a successful acquisition. The rest, as they say in both the sports and business worlds, is just execution.