Boredom. It's a term we associate with negative feelings of listlessness, lack of stimulation, and dullness. But boredom can sometimes free the mind to wander and lead to creativity. For Domenico Crapanzano, boredom led to his co-founding of Fing, a leading provider of network scanning and device identification solutions.
Crapanzano had a background in finance and was the Managing Director of an investment banking firm. But he found himself searching for something more exciting. He recalls, "I was bored. I was in fixed income trading and traded bonds. The great thing about trading bonds is at 4:15 P.M., the market closes and you get to go home. The weekends are your weekends. In my spare time, I used to play a lot with devices in my home. I probably have 250 devices connected in one way or another to my home network. I have the alarm, the camera, security, gates, telephone, and audio-video distribution connected. I even have IP-enabled actuators installed for the hot water pipes that go into the water heater." Crapanzano realized that connecting devices to his home network was a passion, and he turned that passion into the birth of Fing.
Crapanzano's involvement with Fing started as a user of the Fing application, whose two creators developed it as a hobby. The application was a mobile scanner that helped users identify what devices are connected to their network. Crapanzano loved the application and saw its future growth potential. So he contacted the creators and shared his ideas for expanding the tool. The fact that Crapanzano and the creators were Italian made for an amiable match. Crapanzano says, "We just clicked. They quit their job. I quit mine. And we started a company."
Crapanzano spent five years at Fing as CEO and Board Chairman. And in that time, he and his team grew the company into a global leader in device recognition technology for IoT. They expanded their offerings to include highly sophisticated device identification capabilities and network traffic analysis. Their tools are used for a wide range of consumer and industrial purposes ‒ anywhere from helping a home user determine if someone outside of the household is hijacking their Wi-Fi, helping a business inventory their network assets, and enabling a company like Disney to identify devices on which to provide parental controls.
Fing's product versatility has stimulated more than 40 million downloads and the building of a crowdsourced database of information on 40 billion devices. Their customer base includes home users, home automation installers, and a variety of IT, security, networking, telecommunications companies and consumer electronics retailers.
Although Fing's expansion was successful, it was exhausting a lot of money ‒ much of it Crapanzano's. So to drive more revenue into the company, Fing decided to monetize their technology by licensing it to enterprises. But Crapanzano realized that to stimulate even more revenue, the company needed to monetize the consumer side of the business, something that was difficult to do. Crapanzano said, "I didn't think we had the resources to do that on ourselves. So it was either go out and raise money, or see what's out there. So I hired an advisor. I also entertained some discussions on my own and quickly realized that I wasn't getting anywhere or I wasn't being taken seriously. So I stopped that and eventually approached Corum mostly to gauge the market. I just wanted to understand whether it made sense to look for external funding to fuel expansion or to part with the company and allow it to go onto the next stage. "
The initial engagement Crapanzano had with Corum was in Seattle in early March 2020, a time in which the city was experiencing the first COVID case in the United States. However, despite this unlucky coincidence, the involvement rapidly drew benefits for Fing. By April, Corum had developed a list of more than 100 possible suitors for the company and ultimately, Fing got six offers. Crapanzano was gratified by the variety of companies that took part in the bidding competition. He put it this way, "The interesting thing was that the company made sense to different people for different reasons. Some valued the consumers and the brand, and some valued the technology. We had a wide mix of prospects from those in cybersecurity, IT asset management, retailing, and manufacturing. Most of it was strategic interest. I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of interest that we generated.
Ultimately, Fing was acquired by Belgium-based IT asset management company Lansweeper. In making the purchase, Lansweeper added Fing's unique device identification and IT network discovery capabilities to its product portfolio. Interestingly, Fing had pursued Lansweeper as a possible buyer before contacting Corum. However, Crapanzano is clear about the value a trusted advisor like Corum with a proven M&A process has to a successful sale. He says, "I don't think we would have achieved the result that we did without going through the competitive process that Corum enabled. I'm sure of that." The entire process, from initial contact with Corum to final sale, took only seven months.
Crapanzano gained two valuable insights during the M&A process. The first was the importance of crafting the right story for a potential buyer, something Corum's team helped hone. Crapanzano says, "It was our story, but Corum forced us to be a lot more logical about it and a lot more efficient in telling that story." The second insight is to invest the required effort in due diligence. "You can tell a story, but you also need to put numbers in a story," according to Crapanzano. He recalls the due diligence period as exhaustive, with a lot of pulling of documents and numbers. But the effort was well worth it. As Crapanzano says, "The first three months were a pain to go through everything. But when it got into gear and we started getting offers, that was really fun."