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Remember Jeff Dachis? The brash Internet-consulting mogul made a name for himself in the ’90s at his then-hot Web shop, Razorfish, by declaring that “everything that can be digital will be.” He’s got a new line: Everything that can be social will be.
And he’s putting $50 million from Austin Ventures to work trying to prove it at his Texas-based Dachis Group — starting with the acquisition, announced Monday, of Portland, Ore.-based Xplane, an information-design consultancy.
Dachis’s thesis: Business is increasingly done on the Web. The Web is becoming more social. Therefore: “All businesses are going to be social businesses.” And he aims to charge a pretty penny helping them get socialized.
Xplane, founded by entrepreneur Dave Gray in 1993, was perhaps best known for the “little man” illustrations that it produced for Time Inc.’s late, lamented Business 2.0 magazine. (Full disclosure: I worked with Xplane illustrators while at Business 2.0.) But Dachis was more interested in Xplane’s niche in “change communication” — visual explanations of new business processes aimed at helping companies change their cultures.
Dachis wouldn’t say how much he spent to buy Xplane, his company’s fourth acquisition since it launched in 2008. But he said it lifted Dachis Group’s annualized revenues from seven figures to eight figures. In other words, he’s now doing more than $10 million in sales.
Just don’t call it a rollup. Dachis bristled at the term, which he feels was tarnished by Razorfish rivals like USWeb/CKS.
“We’re not putting [the acquisitions] all together at once, and we’re not buying things that are commodities,” said Dachis. “If you want to think USWeb, you’re on the wrong track. It’s a buildup.”
Also? Don’t call him a consultant.
“We can build a great little business with consulting,” Dachis explained. “My sense is that Austin Ventures doesn’t see just consulting as the opportunity here with me. There’s an interesting concept beyond the consulting business that might be attractive to them. That’s not something we’re revealing yet.”
He suggested, though, that building and buying tools to help businesses become social could be part of Dachis Group’s strategy.
The acquisition takes Dachis Group to 100 employees in seven cities across five countries, Dachis said. And he still has a good piece of that $50 million left to spend.
Some free advice for social-media shops looking to sell out: He’s looking for diversity in geographies and skills. He’s already acquired a London-based business, and Xplane has an office in Amsterdam. So if you’re doing something Dachis Group isn’t doing, in a place where it doesn’t have an office, drop him a line.
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