Catching up with Gazella Wi-Fi founder Eric Burns after the company’s acquisition by Bloom Intelligence

2019 ended on a high note for Omaha startup Gazella WiFi. In December, the company was acquired by St. Petersburg, Florida-based Bloom Intelligence, a Wi-Fi marketing and customer intelligence platform. Gazella’s services have been deployed in more than 2,000 Wi-Fi access points across 26 countries, a press release highlighting the acquisition said. Financial aspects of…

Courtesy Gazella
Courtesy Gazella

2019 ended on a high note for Omaha startup Gazella WiFi.

In December, the company was acquired by St. Petersburg, Florida-based Bloom Intelligence, a Wi-Fi marketing and customer intelligence platform.

Eric Burns

Gazella’s services have been deployed in more than 2,000 Wi-Fi access points across 26 countries, a press release highlighting the acquisition said. Financial aspects of the deal were not disclosed.

Gazella was founded in 2016 and spent time in the former Straight Shot accelerator. The company offers Wi-Fi marketing and analytics services. In a 2016 Silicon Prairie News profile, founder Eric Burns said Gazella was primarily focusing on restaurants and adding more personalization features to its marketing capabilities.

Silicon Prairie News caught up with Burns to get his thoughts on the acquisition.

SPN: Gazella and Bloom Intelligence announced the acquisition in December 2019. How long was that process? 

Eric Burns: The process was relatively quick. There was about two months’ worth of negotiations and due diligence. While we didn’t have a prior relationship with Bloom Intelligence, we were very much aligned when it came to business goals and strategy of the acquisition, which made the process go quickly and smoothly.

SPN: It’s been a while since we’ve talked. What is new with the Gazella platform and the Wi-Fi marketing space that made Gazella an attractive acquisition?

EB: Bloom Intelligence’s goal was to create a roll-up acquisition strategy of Wi-Fi marketing companies that we wanted to be a part of. Gazella focused on many white-label features and partner channels that were attractive to the Bloom Intelligence team. Bloom Intelligence’s platform also had many years of development and amazing technical features that would increase value to our customers as well, making it a win-win.

When partnering, I also wanted to be sure it was a good fit for our team (at Gazella), including key members such as Matt Ronay, who graduated from Creighton University and then became employee No. 1 and responsible for sales growth at Gazella; and Pallav Bajracharya, who joined our team early on after graduating with his MBA from the University of Nebraska at Omaha and ran our customer success team at Gazella. I wanted to be sure that if any acquisition were to take place, the team would be able to continue to make an impact. With the Bloom Intelligence deal, we were confident this could happen.

SPN: An acquisition is a great achievement. How are you feeling about it now, several months later?

EB: Overall, I couldn’t be happier with the acquisition, and very grateful for the opportunity. Since the acquisition, a lot has happened. The majority of our customers were in the hospitality and restaurant industry, and when COVID-19 shut these businesses down, it was great to have the Bloom Intelligence team by our side to keep the business moving forward during a period of extreme uncertainty.

We are now seeing restaurants coming back and we’ve just completed another acquisition of another Wi-Fi marketing company, SuperFi. All in all, even with the economic impacts of COVID, the entire team at Bloom Intelligence is executing on the plan and it has been an amazing experience to work with Will Wilson (CEO) and Robin Johnson (COO) on their executive team.

SPN: How has your day-to-day changed since the acquisition? Does Gazella still have a presence in Omaha?

EB: My day-to-day has remained relatively unchanged. After the initial transition of the companies, I was asked to take on the role of CEO of Captiveyes Advertising, a subsidiary company of Captiveyes Group, the holding company that also owns Bloom Intelligence. Captiveyes Advertising is a 14-year-old advertising company with billboards and other Wi-Fi and digital advertising assets. My role is to take what they have been doing well and build up the company with a growth mindset to scale the company. In many ways, it’s similar to the work I was doing with Gazella, just with a different product.

While we no longer have an office in the Omaha area, other former Gazella employees and I are working remotely from home.

SPN: What’s next for you and Gazella?

EB: Moving forward, I’ll be focusing on my new role, but I am still heavily involved in executive team meetings and discussions for Bloom Intelligence/Gazella. We are building an omni-channel marketing approach to physical location businesses, primarily in the retail and restaurant (sectors). There are quite a few exciting development items coming down the pipeline that we’ve been working on, as well as our focus on expansion both through sales and acquisition, which will keep us busy for quite some time.

SPN: How did the startup and entrepreneurial community in Omaha and the region help you grow Gazella and get to this point?

EB: Omaha is an incredible community. I’m not really sure where to start with this question. From the support we received getting started with Straight Shot; to local angel investors such as Nathan Preheim, who has now built startup fund Proven Ventures; to Nebraska Department of Economic Development and their prototype and startup financing programs; to the Startup Collaborative; to AIM, where we officed out of since day one; to Dale Easley and his entrepreneurial students from UNO, who were always working closely with our team; it would take an entire interview to talk about each one of these and just how much they helped grow Gazella.

JOIN THE MOVEMENT!

Sign up to receive daily updates in your inbox.