OpEx Awards 22: Asia-Pacific Upper mid-market winner – Partners Group

Partners Group helped transform Straive into a technology-led business while positioning it to meet growing demand for edtech and data solutions.

In 2017, Partners Group acquired SPi Global, a Singapore-headquartered provider of outsourced services to education, science, technical and medical research publishers. Over the following four years, the firm helped transform the company into a technology-driven content and data solutions business and rebranded it as Straive to represent the focus on putting ‘AI’ and technology at the centre of its operations.

Partners Group identified an opportunity to develop Straive’s products and services for two growth markets – edtech and data – alongside its core focus on research content services. To facilitate this, the firm reorganised the management structure to provide leadership for its three business units – EdTech Solutions, Data Solutions and Research Content Services – with common support capabilities across functions such as finance, operations and people. It further strengthened the management team through six new senior hires, and brought on board experienced operating directors to provide oversight and expertise for each business unit.

“Very strong operational management”

In addition, the company established a new M&A function to source platform acquisitions on a proprietary basis. Through this function, a bolt-on was completed for each business unit. This included acquiring data-enrichment solutions provider Scope e-Knowledge Center in 2018; Scientific Publishing Services, in Straive’s core research services space, in 2019; and education technology and services company LearningMate in 2020.

A key component of the value-creation plan was to transform Straive from a “headcount-led to technology-led” business, according to Partners Group. During the GP’s investment period, the company grew its technology and digitisation-focused staff from approximately 300 to 1,000. It also enhanced its capabilities across robotic process automation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, augmented reality and virtual reality.

Last but not least, it overhauled Straive’s sales force, including redesigning sales roles, and implementing best practices for sales execution and account coverage, as well as recruiting additional sales staff.

As a result of these initiatives, the company’s EBITDA doubled in less than four years of Partners Group’s ownership, while organic revenue growth more than doubled.

Partners Group sold Straive to funds affiliated with Baring Private Equity Asia last year. At exit, Straive had operations in 15 locations across the Philippines, Singapore, India, China, Vietnam, the US, the UK and Nicaragua.

The judges commended the firm’s “identification of growth segments and execution”, with one praising Partners Group’s “very strong operational management” and the business’s “exceptional transition from [being] headcount-led to technology-led”.

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