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Rock Solid Buys Meeting Livestreaming Firm Swagit

The deal — taking place at a busy time for M&A in gov tech — comes as more agencies are turning to virtual and digital tools for public meetings and archiving. Rock Solid announced the acquisition amid a rebranding.

meeting-council-stockton
An overflow crowd fills Stockton City Hall to watch city council deliberations on closed circuit TV about the California municipality's bankruptcy.
(Luis Sinco/Los Angeles Times/MCT)
Rock Solid Technologies, which sells citizen engagement and ERP software to government, has bought Swagit Productions, a Dallas-based firm focused on livestreaming and related technologies designed for cities, counties, states and school districts.

Terms were not disclosed. The deal, which has already closed, was announced Friday.

The acquisition comes in a particularly active week for the gov tech industry, with two other mergers and a pair of significant investments being unveiled. The deals provide further evidence of the attractiveness of the market as public agencies continue to become more digital.

The deal also points to the rising popularity of tools designed for virtual meetings and the changing nature of public participation and citizen engagement — fast-moving trends that are influencing the larger gov tech world.

Even as competition increases in those areas, Swagit can manage to stand out with its technology, Rock Solid CEO Tom Spengler told Government Technology. He was the founding CEO of Granicus, a company that sells cloud-based citizen participation tools, and has much experience with streaming public meetings.

“Then Swagit came in and chose a different way to compete, (a way centered) more around a service model” and automation, he said.

‘ADVANCED TRANSPARENCY’


The company’s technology — which Rock Solid says has “advanced transparency features” — can provide not only the livestreaming of public meetings but automated indexing, voice search for specific content in archived videos, closed captioning with clickable transcripts and remote production controls, as well as “hands-free capabilities.”

As Rock Solid more or less put it, Swagit technology is designed to be foolproof — that is, suitable for “public-sector organizations that often have limited technical resources or know-how.”

The automated technology could also appeal to agencies dealing with labor shortages, Spengler said.

Just more than a year ago, Rock Solid made its own M&A splash when it bought PrimeGov, whose products can automate the creation of public meeting agendas and also handle virtual meetings and the management of public participation. Spengler was executive chairman of PrimeGov.

The acquisition of Swagit adds to that energy at a time when use of livestreaming is growing quickly, spurred in part by a desire to socially distance during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Since the pandemic, livestreaming has gained popularity as governments tried to keep up connections with residents during the COVID-19 lockdowns while also conforming to open meetings and public records laws. The trend has hit large and small municipalities, counties and other governing operations.

Overall, the global livestreaming market will reach $4.26 billion by 2028, representing a CAGR of 22.4 percent between 2021 and 2028, according to one recent estimate.

All that revenue, of course, will come from much more than government agencies, but the figure points to the fact that more people, businesses and other institutions are becoming very comfortable with livestreaming, a habit the pandemic has helped to boost.

That said, livestreaming does still attract controversy in government settings.

Some experts argue the technology encourages more inclusive forms of government, while other research questions that theory and points out how public participation at meetings doesn’t always change demographically even with new digital and remote technology.

And as many cities have continued or even re-doubled their virtual efforts as the pandemic eases — Boulder, Colo., provides a solid example of that, and offers website meeting sign-ups for residents — other towns and cities seem to be taking a more skeptical approach as COVID-19 fears dissipate.

That includes Jersey City, N.J. Officials earlier this year were debating whether to require in-person attendance at meetings for people who want to speak or otherwise participate, or to offer more virtual service akin to what Swagit sells.

All that fresh technology — and the rising citizen demand in some places for more streaming access — also is forcing more consideration about how laws apply to virtual meetings.

As that demand grows and the technology develops, Spengler envisions other tools that could result from the Swagit deal.

For instance, “minutes-as-a-service” automated technology could seriously reduce the time needed for the often arduous task of compiling and reviewing records of public meetings — a job that any city clerk knows very well.

“And video conferencing and streaming have taken off over the last couple of years,” he said. “Leaders want to keep those tools, and (we think we can) improve the way residents interact with government through video.”

ROCK SOLID REBRANDING


Rock Solid was founded in 1994 and has offices in Austin, Texas, and Puerto Rico. The company has about 800 government and educational clients.

Swagit launched in 2003 and says on its website that its “content delivery network stretches across North America, ensuring fast connect times from the closest point-of-presence (POP) to an end-user’s location.” Clients include Waller County, Texas; Portsmouth Public Schools in Virginia; the city of Casa Grande, Ariz., and other organizations.

As Spengler told it, Swagit has been owned and operated by three partners since its launch, and “they really wanted a good place for their customers and their team.”

He said Rock Solid will keep Swagit’s 77 employees and its Dallas office. Swagit Co-Founder and President Bryan Halley will join Rock Solid’s executive team.

The deal comes as Rock Solid continues to build off its PrimeGov acquisition.

Earlier this May, Rock Solid said that it had completed a rebranding; the legislative management part of PrimeGov became OneMeeting and the public requests unit is now known OneRequest. A “unified” Rock Solid technology suite called OnePlatform is the umbrella under which various tools now operate.

“Uniting Rock Solid's agenda management solution, OneMeeting, with our livestreaming and on-demand recording technology for the public sector, paves the way for further innovation that has limitless potential for elevating how local governments share and receive information with their constituents,” Halley said in a statement.
Thad Rueter writes about the business of government technology. He covered local and state governments for newspapers in the Chicago area and Florida, as well as e-commerce, digital payments and related topics for various publications. He lives in New Orleans.