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13 December 2019

Kore acquires Integron, in strangely quiet connectivity platform market

Kore Wireless is continuing its acquisition streak, this week buying Integron, an IoT-focused Managed Services Provider (MSP) that has been focused on connected healthcare. The buy firms up Kore’s desire to expand past its connectivity platform roots – a sensible decision, given the apparent freeze that has crept into that market.

A few years ago, you couldn’t move for mention of Jasper, a plucky firm that was bought by Cisco for $1.4bn in 2016, and seemingly since discarded. Jasper’s traditional Hall 4 booth at MWC was gone from last year’s show, and the company was not to be found at Cisco’s main booth either, which seems to have confirmed our hunch that Cisco was interested in Jasper to manage the mobile devices of its business customers, rather than the IoT devices that had fueled so much of the enthusiasm around Jasper.

But behind Cisco-Jasper, there were a handful of smaller players, all of which could provide customers with connectivity plans to ensure that their devices would have a network to rely on. These were mostly cellular devices, with a smattering of satellite and U-LPWAN, and included Aeris, Kore, and Stream – the last of which was recently acquired by Arm, to be integrated into its Pelion platform offering.

Aeris had seemed more prominent than Kore, looking to get its name out there. Aeris says it has 14mn subscriptions, up from 7mn at MWC 2016, but Kore’s investor-owner seems to be trying to claw back the gap between the two. Aeris recently announced its new Fusion IoT network, built on Google Cloud Platform, which it is billing as 5G-ready.

Aeris seems committed to organic growth. Kore, however, has been quite active on the M&A front. Back in 2014, ABRY Partners essentially took control of Kore, with a majority stake, and immediately merged it with RacoWireless – a rival that had emerged from T-Mobile USA’s M2M division and which was led by John Horn, who went on to head OnRamp and Ingenu.

In 2016, Kore then bought Wyless, another rival of sorts, to expand its global portfolio, which took the company to over 3,000 customers, representing over 6mn devices, and revenues thought to be around $250mn. In December 2018, Kore acquired Aspider-NGI, for an undisclosed sum, which added eSIM and core network expertise to its roster.

As of April 2018, Kore said it had 8.5mn device subscriptions, from over 6,000 customers, but we believe Kore stopped reporting this number here. In March of that year, Jasper told us that it had 75mn devices, and expected to add 100mn Cat-NB devices by 2020, just for China Mobile. It was reportedly adding 2mn devices monthly, and had grown from 40mn in 2017, and from 17mn in 2016.

This illustrates the lead that Jasper had, and apparently the lead that Cisco is willing to let rot on the vine. Kore had 3.5mn in 2014, 6mn in 2016, and 8.5mn in 2018 – adding as many in two years as Jasper was adding in a month. This growth seems to have motivated Kore to carry out an overhaul, announcing a rebranding in September 2018 that was intended to convey its new simplified offering – trying to make IoT adoption for its customers as smooth as possible, and emphasizing the combined service offering.

This finally brings us to Integron, the latest purchase in this expansionist strategy. Kore says that the company will further its IoT Solutions and Managed Services capability, with the combined entity’s largest vertical market being connected health and life sciences.

Integron was founded in 1985, and while headquartered in Rochester NY, it also has an office in Ulestraten, in the Netherlands. It has apparently experienced rapid growth in recent years, thanks to its position as an ‘expert IoT solution provider in highly regulated industries.’

“Our mission is clear: to simplify the complexities of IoT as a trusted advisor to our customers as we help them deploy, manage, and scale their mission-critical IoT solutions,” said Romil Bahl, President and CEO of KORE. “We are relentless in the pursuit of that mission and we are thrilled to broaden our scale and credentials with this acquisition. Integron is a respected company in IoT. Their expertise in serving key markets such as healthcare, pharmaceuticals, and life sciences has led to innovative IoT-enabled clinical trials and remote patient monitoring solutions. This acquisition also brings us some key certifications such as those from the ISO and FDA, uniquely positioning us ahead of our competition in regulated industries,” added Bahl.

“It is an exciting time for Integron and KORE to grow stronger together, powered by talented people, to deliver IoT innovation to our wonderful customers,” said Jeanne Pagani, CEO and co-founder of Integron. “Over more than two decades, we have been able to develop a strong competence in delivering IoT managed services in the most complex and compliance-intensive industries,” commented Bryan Lubel, President of Integron. “The natural alignment of our businesses was uncanny; both Integron and KORE have become widely recognized in the IoT industry for bringing simplicity to complex IoT projects. The prospect of now adding scale and scope promises to benefit all of our partners and customers.”