Challenger Groups Tracker

January 9, 2023

Challenger Groups

Challenger Groups Tracker – by Waypoint Partners

There is a cohort of ambitious, fast-growing agencies increasingly making waves in the marketing services world, collectively described as “challenger” groups. It’s a rapidly developing space and it can be hard to keep up with the pace of change including M&A activity, investment, and financial results.

Waypoint Partners has analysed this section of the agency world to provide the key headline stats at a glance. The challenger groups in the table below appear in order of size and with other key data to provide context. Waypoint has selected them as interesting businesses to watch based on a range of factors, including, but not limited to, the size and quality of investment received and the pace of acquisition to date or potential to acquire in the future. We will be updating this data regularly, so do check in to see how the picture changes throughout the year.

Company icon whiteHeadcount icon lightcalendar icon lightCountry icon lightCEO icon lightOwnership icon lightMilestones icon lightAcquisitions icon light
CompanyHeadcountYear FoundedHQ (Country)CEO / Exec Chair OwnershipInvestment MilestonesNotable Acquisitions
(2021 – date)
Croud<500 (excl. Croudie network)2011London, UKLuke SmithPE-backed:
Nov 19: Secured £30m minority investment from LDC 2
Brainlabs500 – 1k2012London, UKDaniel GilbertPE-backed:
Mar 19: Livingbridge acquired a minority stake6
Known<5002020*New York, USKern SchiresonPE-backed:
*Formerly Schireson Associates, acquired Stun Creative & Blackbird in 2020 with funding from ICG to form Known0
Sideshow500 – 1k2010London, UKTony HillPE-backed:
Mar 21: Waterland Private Equity acquired a stake7
MERGE500-1k2004Chicago, USPatrick VenetucciPE-backed:
Keystone Capital
Dec 18: Keystone Capital announced partnership with MERGE2
Power Digital500-1k2012San Diego, USGrayson LafrenzPE-backed:
Court Square
Mar 22: Received investment from Court Square Capital Partners

Jan 21: Avante Capital Partners completed a unitranche debt investment in Power Digital

Apr 19: Received investment from Periscope Equity
iO Group1k- 5k2005Herentals, BelgiumPieter JanssensPE-backed:
Dec 18: Received investment from Waterland Private Equity14
Dept1k-5k2016 Amsterdam, NetherlandsDimi AlbersPE-backed:
Dec 19: Carlyle Group acquired a majority stake in Dept from Waterland Private Equity11
Bounteous1k-5k2003Denver, USKeith SchwartzPE-backed:
New Mountain Capital
Aug 21: New Mountain Capital acquires a stake in Bounteous from Mountaingate Capital2
PMG Worldwide1k-5k2010Fort Worth, USGeorge PopstefanovPrivaten.a.0
S4 Capital5k-10k2018London, UKSir Martin Sorrell PublicFeb 22: Considers New York Stock Exchange listing

Jan 22: Launched S4S Ventures, a venture capital fund with Stanhope Capital Group

Dec 16: Lists on the LSE
Brandtech Group5k-10k2015New York, USDavid JonesSeries B Funding:
Sep 21: Reportedly entered talks with banks about $3bn US float

Jan 21: Raised $260m in Series B which valued the company at $1.36bn
Stagwell10k2015New York, USMark PennPublicAug 21: The merger of MDC and Stagwell formerly completed14
Research by Waypoint Partners

– Sources include S&P Capital IQ, LinkedIn and company websites
– This is a snapshot of the cohort, not an exhaustive list
– Last updated 9th January 2023

“This data gathered by Waypoint Partners provides a helpful snapshot of a highly active and interesting cohort of challengers whose emergence as acquirer groups is causing significant disruption in the industry. A couple of years ago, owners were intrigued by the management consultancies who were building their presence in the space and acquiring accordingly – now we’ve seen a notable shift in attention amongst agency owners looking for new and exciting platforms to accelerate their next phase of growth.”

© Waypoint Partners LTD 2023