Brian Andersen is the Co-Founder — with Terry Kawaja — and the Head of Digital Marketing Investment Banking at LUMA Partners, a small but mighty I-bank that is the premiere boutique operating at the luminescent nexus of digital media and marketing technology.
Founded in 2010, LUMA is the best-known bespoke advisory service in ad- and mar-tech, running the most alpha-rich congregations — the Digital Marketing Summit, or LUMA DMS; the highly liquid Cannes Blanc party; various discreetly furbished dinners that, if you haven’t heard of them, you may not belong, — and genuinely inspired content marketing, from parody videos to that ubiquitous logo-rific series of LUMAScapes (created by Terry).
And then there are the deals, starting with Dapper->Yahoo within a few months of LUMA’s founding in the fall of 2010, rapidly tailed by Demdex->Adobe, Admeld->Google, Interclick->Yahoo … and many others.
As Brian tells Marty in this special holiday-season episode, our 50th (!), he first met Kawaja in the course of circling Invite Media as a potential acquisition by his then-employer, Omniture. In fact, Omniture had agreed to acquire the then-minuscule Invite as a DSP “workflow tool” to complement Omniture’s web analytics suite, when Brian was Vice President of Corporate Development. Adobe’s $1.8 billion acquisition of Omniture in 2009 paused the transaction, and when Adobe returned later, Google had moved in, advised in part by Terry Kawaja.
In the deal debrief, Brian recalls, Terry told the Adobe team: “You just didn’t move fast enough.” Not long after, Brian and Terry ran into one another at a BlueKai conference and mutually announced intentions to leave their bivouacs — Brian at Adobe, and Terry at GCA, where he was Co-Head of Digital Media, after a career in M&A at big banks such as Citigroup and Credit Suisse First Boston.
Initially reluctant, due to an early mismatch with investment banking at Robertson Stephens, Brian decided to sign up as the Silicon Valley half of LUMA.
Tall and athletic, Brian was a formidable defensive end at UC Davis, where he majored in engineering and was two-time All Conference. Ironically disliking I-banking, he moved into business development roles at Interwoven and then Omniture, founded by Josh James in a dorm room Utah in 1996.
From the beginning, Brian says, LUMA’s approach had two pillars: (1) deep industry expertise; and (2) strategic thinking. Neither is as common as you might assume, particularly in the ad- and mar-tech space, which until the last decade was considered unpredictable and suspiciously specialized. As advisors, LUMA doesn’t do traditional pitch cycles but rather functions as a kind of digital yenta, detecting chemistry and suggesting matches drawn from its capacious network of disrupters and acquirers.
Brian admits it hasn’t always been easy. There are ups and down in business cycles, of course, and while 2021 was a record year — with 15-16 deals for the LUMA team — 2022 was a different story. But at a recent DMS in Menlo Park, Brian gave a presentation pointing out that the valuations of public companies in the space are simply reverting to normal levels after a feverish period of froth and FOMO. So perhaps we’re all more normal now … ?
Brian remains optimistic.