Homegrown software firm WebLink bought by Atlanta company

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WebLink International Inc. has seen its share of changes since its founding two decades ago, but none as big as the one that took place earlier this week.

The Indianapolis-based association management software firm was acquired Oct. 30 by Atlanta-based MemberClicks Inc., a growing provider of membership-management software.

Financial terms of the deal weren’t disclosed.

WebLink will maintain operations in Indianapolis and operate as a product subsidiary of the larger company under the MemberClicks name.

Company leaders expect WebLink and its WebLink Connect software line to grow under the new ownership. The local firm has 38 employees, with about half of those working from its office at 12400 N. Meridian St. in Carmel.

WebLink becomes part of a company with 75 existing employees and 2,000 clients that has been growing through acquisition.

MemberClicks, founded in 1998, has focused on membership software for small-staff organizations but has been seeking growth opportunities. In May, it acquired ePly, an online event registration software company based in Vancouver.

"We couldn't be more excited to combine forces with WebLink," MemberClicks CEO Mark Sedgley said in written comments. "Together we will buck the current trend we see in the market and create real value for what we believe is an underserved space. Simply put: We are going to double down and invest even more in the community we love."

WebLink CEO DJ Muller will take on the role of chief strategy officer at the new business unit.

Founded by Muller in Avon in 1996, WebLink has evolved over the years to carve out its niche in the competitive software industry.

The firm got its start writing database, directory and calendar software for churches. After Muller began adding chambers of commerce as clients, he began creating code to support their billing, event management, financial reporting, social networking for membership, and e-commerce.

The business rolled out the industry’s first interactive online membership directory and was among the first to offer real-time event calendars.

Eventually, WebLink began packaging its services together in an all-in-one software product for chamber needs. That's when the business took off.

By 2008, it had 420 customers, 40 employees and $4.5 million in annual revenue. It also began attracting capital from angel investors and venture groups.

Investor Don Aquilano, a Blue Chip partner, led a $3.5 million investment deal in WebLink and became the company's chairman. Spring Mill partner David Mann also joined the board, as did Scott Webber, the former CEO of Software Artistry Inc.

Growth slowed, however, as recession-weary chambers became reluctant to spend the $10,000 or more WebLink charged for its software.  

WebLink revamped its business model in 2010 and began selling online ads to run on web sites of clients. Clients received commissions on the sales of the ads to help subsidize the purchase of the WebLink’s software.

The strategy helped the company reach 55 employees and 750 clients by 2010, but the firm found more change was necessary to stay competitive.

WebLink once again reinvented itself by broadening its client base. In 2012, chamber clients accounted for 95 percent of WebLink’s revenue. Two years later, 85 percent of WebLink’s new business came from trade and professional associations—a market 20 times larger than the chamber sector.

The company accomplished the diversification through rebranding, targeted marketing, product enhancements and attending and sponsoring association events.

Not-for-profit tech advocacy group TechPoint was so impressed by the effort that it presented WebLink with the 2015 Tech Sales and Marketing Award during the annual Mira Awards, which honor the best of tech in Indiana.

Muller said the sale to MemberClicks was the logical next step for the business.

"We are thrilled to be joining the MemberClicks Nation," he said in a statement. "This is a union that just makes sense—for both companies, for our customers and for the entire industry. Together, we will create bigger and better opportunities for member-based organizations to leverage technology in a way that will revolutionize the way they serve their members."

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