24 June 2014

Is this a WIN-WIN? Findmypast acquires Mocavo

Yesterday, two major players in the genealogy community announced that Mocavo was being acquired by Findmypast.  You can read the fine details here Findmypast announcement and Mocavo announcement.

It’s always a guessing game when two major players in the genealogy community join forces, one acquiring another, or merging to become one. I find myself second-guessing the motives and where the win-win might be in the transaction.  So here is my take ...

Mocavo.com, a privately held internet company based in Colorado, first launched in March of 2011 as an index to all free online genealogy information. It searches the National Archives, Library of Congress, FreeBMD, Find A Grave, Rootsweb, Archives.org and many others, including many U.S. state archives, message boards, family trees, and the many genealogy web sites built by you and me. It finds many records that you could find individually by searching each and every site, but it does it in one search from their site. In just the past couple of years, Mocavo.com has added their own acquired records including millions of pages of yearbooks. They also have a paid version that has added benefits. Later in 2011 they launched Mocavo.co.uk, expanding beyond the U.S. 

The following year Mocavo acquired ReadyMicro, a company that specializes in digitization and preservation services. So Mocavo was already beginning to expand their business model to include acquired records and become more than a genealogy search engine. 

Cliff Shaw, the original founder of Mocavo, is the technical brain. Among the various backers behind Mocavo is our own fellow genealogist, Michael J. Leclerc who is a former director at the New England Historic Genealogical Society and a former board member of APG and many other positions. He added the genealogical brains to Mocavo a year later in 2012. 

Cliff Shaw was also the founder of GenForum that was later sold to The Learning Company/A&E Television Networks; founder of Pearl Street Software that was sold to MyHeritage; founder of ProtectMyPhotos which eventually became PicStreem and then BackupMyTree.com (an automatic backup service for family trees). BackupMyTree was acquired by MyHeritage in 2012. MyHeritage is now well known for its Smart Matching search techniques.

Are you seeing a pattern here?

Findmypast has been around since 1965 in various forms, beginning as a small group of professional and probate genealogists.  It is a privately held online genealogy service owned by a UK company, DC Thomson Family History (previously known as brightsolid). Back in 2003 the website was known as “1837online” which was a pay-per-view service that allowed access to BDM registers from the General Register Office (GRO) in England. Gradually they added many records including the UK censuses. 

In 2009/10, Brightsolid acquired both Genes Reunited (British newspapers) and its sister company, Friends Reunited (social network), both UK companies. In 2012, they created a partnership with the British Library to publish 100 years of the UK electoral registers. They have since partnered with FamilySearch, the New England Historic Genealogical Society, Society of Genealogists, and the UK National Archives. 

And another of our brilliant genealogists, D. Joshua Taylor joined Findmypast as Business Development Manager and is now the Data Strategy Manager – North America and the lead genealogist. He also is a former director at the New England Historic Genealogical Society (NEHGS) and was a featured genealogist on “Who Do You Think You Are”. He currently serves as the President for the Federation of Genealogical Societies (FGS).

See more connections and patterns?

Interestingly, Findmypast has had its fair share of controversy recently after changing their website interface and subscribers voicing their difficulty with the search engine.  Plenty of complaints were made directly to the company and throughout the genealogical community. The company shared in the news media, just two months ago, that they would “listen to customers’ feedback and make the necessary improvements as quickly as possible”. 

Findmypast has been suffering from the same out-of-date technology issues that Ancestry faced with their switch to the “new search” and dropping “old search”, and even FamilySearch has been dealing with the changes from newFamilySearch to the current FamilySearch. Old technology is something we all have to deal with, whether it’s with a company we do business with, a software package we purchase or use (think PAF being discontinued), or even the vehicle we drive (don't you just wish you still had that old clunker you loved so much?). Technology changes faster than most other areas of our lives and is a very costly and difficult part of any business. It required CHANGE and ADAPTATION on our part, as well.

So, looking at the latest announcement from Findmypast and Mocavo, and all the above details, this acquisition makes perfect sense to me. There are some heavy hitters with significant technical and genealogical knowledge finding ways to join forces, blending their various expertise to make their businesses stronger and provide us, as users, additional and better products. Besides that, I see some of the successful entrepreneurs in this industry who have terrific ideas that become very successful. After they grow it to the best it can be, they sell it off to another company who has the need giving the seller the capital to either move on or further enhance their product. I see the perfect WIN-WIN for everyone. So I’m excited for this change and look forward to both Findmypast and Mocavo becoming better than they were yesterday! Mocavo needs capital and Fndmypast needs better search capability. The two companies can remain somewhat independent but share in the knowledge each offers. 

Think Findmypast, MyHeritage and FamilySearch partnerships! Also, a terrific WIN-WIN!