Ottawa’s Xactly acquires Grade A’s social media division


In many ways, fellow Ottawa firms Xactly Design & Advertising and Grade A consulting are two sides of the same coin.

Both companies were founded 16 years ago by alumni of Carleton University. Though focused on different industries, the two agencies share several clients and their employees have gotten to know each other well over that time.

So when Grade A, an IT consulting enterprise, began looking to divest its social media management arm earlier this year, it didn’t take long to find a willing dance partner.

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Xactly announced earlier this month it has acquired Grade A Digital in a bid to boost its social media expertise and client roster. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

“The brand and the culture of both companies are very similar,” said Xactly owner and president Denis Sabourin. “There was just a good synergy. They’ve been a good fit for us.”

Sabourin, who graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from Carleton in 2001 and launched Xactly the following year, said the commonalities between his company and Grade A extend well beyond their founders’ alma maters.

“If you go to our studio or theirs, it’s actually quite eerie how similar they look,” he said with a chuckle, noting both leaders also share a penchant for comic-book superheroes. “Right away, we just bonded.”

Grade A chief executive Mathew Lafrance agreed. He said he felt it was time for his company to get back to focusing on its core strength in IT and Xactly seemed a natural home for the digital media division, which was launched a year and a half ago and had 11 employees at its peak.

“There were so many coincidences that lined up, it was kind of cool,” said Lafrance, a member of Carleton’s Bachelor of Engineering class of 2003. “We really just knew the type of service model they had, the type of character they had. Their values really aligned with what we were doing, so we knew our customers would be in good hands.”

Both companies share another common trait ​– each has been on a tear over the past few years.

Now at 30 employees, Xactly has quadrupled in size since it moved to Westboro from the east end four years ago. Sabourin said the company is currently negotiating the acquisition of another local ad agency, a transaction he expects will close shortly.

Things are booming at Grade A as well, Lafrance said. The firm is averaging between 20 and 30 per cent revenue growth over the past couple of years and now has a headcount of nearly 90. Grade A’s core IT division has been “flourishing,” he said, adding the company has become the go-to supplier for more than a third of the city’s law firms.

“It worked out well for both parties,” he said of the deal with Xactly. “We can sit down, have a beer, celebrate, share client war stories.”

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