Sideshow Group, the award-winning independent digital agency, is pleased to announce it has taken significant investment from Waterland Private Equity to support its ambitious growth plans.

Sideshow Group aims to become a global leader in evidence-driven digital communications. The partnership will support Sideshow’s vision by accelerating investment in services that deliver meaningful and measurable impact to its clients, and by helping retain and attract the best people in the industry.

Sideshow Group offers clients a highly-connected family of specialist agencies including Vertical Leap, Thinking Juice, Bunnyfoot and Conversion, that together provide modern digital services ranging from experience design to conversion rate optimisation which ultimately drives traffic and revenue growth for brands. Sideshow’s evidence-driven proposition enables clients to make informed and data-driven decisions that supercharge their digital transformation and marketing. Customer-centricity is the cornerstone of the Group’s approach.

Today, Sideshow employs over 250 employees across six offices in the UK, including London, Bournemouth and Sheffield. The Group has enjoyed tremendous revenue, client and headcount growth since it was founded in 2010, driven by organic growth as well as a proven acquisition strategy. Sideshow serves a diversified base of around 350 customers including well-known brands such as BT, KFC, HSBC, Barbour, Facebook and Amazon.

Sideshow operates in a global digital agency market that is worth £180bn. The market is growing at c. 8% a year as digital channels play an increasingly pivotal role in the way consumers and businesses search for, discover and buy products and services. Covid-19 is accelerating this trend by driving investment in the creation, maintenance, and refinement of brands’ digital touchpoints with customers.

Tony Hill, Founder and Group CEO, will continue to lead the business supported by Sideshow’s leadership team of Shane Coughlan (Sideshow Agency), Neil Dennis (Thinking Juice), Stephen Pavlovich (Conversion and Bunnyfoot), Chris Pitt (Vertical Leap) and Group Financial Director Jonathan Russell. Waterland is a well-informed investor in the marketing technology industry from its experience from its partnerships with Dept, Intracto and imc.

Waterland will support Sideshow Group to sustain its successful acquisition strategy, with follow-on funding available to acquire and partner with other high-quality digital agencies in order to provide new and differentiated capabilities to Sideshow’s clients.

Waterland will invest alongside Tony Hill and the senior management team in the transaction.  This will be Waterland’s seventh platform investment by the UK team since opening its Manchester office in 2017. The Waterland deal team comprises Wouter Roduner, Dominic Graham, Robin Elley and Charlie Whitehead.

“I am excited that Sideshow has secured a partnership with Waterland, one of the private equity industry’s best-performing firms with an outstanding record of supporting high-growth digital agencies. Our own ambitions are pretty limitless, so it will be interesting to see where this journey takes us. Most importantly the investment is good for everyone that works in the group and for our clients. We will continue to evolve our culture across the group and bring our brand to life, building a next generation agency group that drives successful change for our clients and inspires the best people to join us.”

Tony Hill, Group CEO and Founder of Sideshow

“We are very pleased to be able to announce this partnership with Sideshow Group. Tony, the senior team and Sideshow’s employees have built a fantastic business over the last ten years based on great client relationships, customer-centricity and flexible delivery. This transaction will support Sideshow to further enhance its customer and employee proposition. Sideshow has a well-defined strategy to become a global leader in evidence-driven digital communications and we are excited to support them to achieve that.”

Dominic Graham, Investment Director at Waterland Private Equity

Sideshow Group was advised by Results International Group (M&A) and Lewis Silkin (Legals). Waterland Private Equity was advised by Deloitte (FDD, Tax), Pinsent Masons (Legals) and Clearwater International (Debt Advisory). The financial terms of the transaction are not disclosed.

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