July 11th, 2013

WeddingWire CEO Says Rebuilding of liveBooks is Underway

WeddingWire-siteThe head of the company which yesterday purchased liveBooks says they have started to “aggressively” hire back liveBooks staffers who had been laid off due to financial troubles,  in order to “get back the level of customer service that [liveBooks] customers expect.” Timothy Chi, co-founder and CEO of WeddingWire, told PDN, “Our goal is that by the end of the week, we’ll be running full speed ahead across all aspects of the business.”

Yesterday Andy Patrick, CEO of liveBooks, which provides website management and other services to professional photographers, told PDN that customer service at the company had “not been good over the last few months,” after he laid off 20 percent of the workforce. He blamed the company’s financial problems on increased competition from companies offering free service and two acquisitions in the last year that “didn’t work out.”

Chi says WeddingWire’s technology teams will be working with liveBooks to update its website platforms. Chi says, “Specifically, we’re looking at HTML 5 and responsive design and some of these things that are important nowadays. It’s something that our technology team at WeddingWire has had experience in.” Currently, the standard website templates liveBooks offers run on Flash.

WeddingWire, which operates online marketplaces for vendors in the wedding and events industries, also provides the technology that powers the “local resources” sections of sites such as Martha Stewart Weddings, Brides.com and Weddingbee.com, where brides and wedding planners can search for photographers, videographers and other wedding vendors.  The software suite WeddingWire provides to wedding and event customers includes business and e-commerce tools, such as a digital contract-signing feature and social media management. Last year the company purchased a small company that provides customer-relationship management (CRM) tools for wedding photographers. Chi says the head of that company has stayed on since its sale and adds,  “We expect to have the same relationship with Andy and his team.”

Patrick told PDN that after he announced that liveBooks had been sold to WeddingWire, he received many calls from commercial photographers asking what WeddingWire is, and whether “powered by WeddingWire” would now appear on their websites. Chi says branding would remain the same. “We’re not wedding experts here,” says Chi. “We’re a technology company that builds tools and platforms to help connect people.”

Chi says he was first introduced to Patrick about six months ago, around the time that liveBooks hired an investment bank to sell the company.  “Andy and I really connected and we share a passion for helping small businesses succeed online.” He says he was impressed with liveBooks, “its products and its customer base.”

Founded seven years ago, WeddingWire is backed by two private equity companies, Catalyst Investors and Spectrum Equity. Spectrum Equity’s portfolio includes Animoto, NetQuote and SurveyMonkey. Companies Catalyst has previously acquired include Advantage Business Media, MINDBODY and Aspire Media.

Related article:

In Financial Distress, liveBooks Sold to WeddingWire

July 10th, 2013

In Financial Distress, liveBooks Sold to WeddingWire

LiveBooks, the content management company that provides website management and other services to professional photographers and designers, has announced that it has been acquired by WeddingWire, Inc., an online marketplace for vendors in the wedding and events industry. Terms were not disclosed.

Andy Patrick, CEO of liveBooks, announced the ownership change to liveBooks customers earlier today, and assured them that the liveBooks service and brand name would continue.

“The liveBooks name, the ‘powered by liveBooks,’ that all stays the same,” Patrick told PDN in a telephone interview today. He added that the sale to WeddingWire, a privately held, seven-year-old company, “brings a lot of resources, a lot of stability, and the ability to grow in the way we wanted to.”  Patrick said liveBooks had hired an investment bank six months ago to sell the company. Patrick said of the sale, “I’m very excited about it, I’m very comfortable with it.

He said the infusion of resources will enable liveBooks to provide its customers with new products, but he didn’t provide any details. “And we will be sharing the details of these developments in the coming months,” he told customers when he announced the sale.

Patrick acknowledged that liveBooks has struggled financially in recent months. “We got to the point where we needed both financial support and people to continue to do what we’ve been doing.”

Patrick attributed the problems to increased competition–there are now 25 or 30 firms providing websites for photographers, he says. Some of them provide free web sites, he adds. “It drove the price[s] down.”

But Patrick says liveBooks had also struggled after the recent acquisition of two companies that provide e-commerce capability for print-on-demand photo products. Neither acquisition was a success, according to Patrick.

The first acquisition, completed last October, was for Pinhole Press and Pinhole Pro. Pinhole was a provider of print-on-demand marketing services and personalized photo gifts That acquisition “was not making sense,” Patrick said.

This past February, liveBooks bought San Francisco-based Fotomoto, an e-commerce application for the sale of images and print-on-demand products.

“Let’s just say it had a lot of issues,” Patrick told PDN.

“We tried some things, they didn’t work out, we had to make adjustments.”

Six months ago, liveBooks hired investment bank Janney Montgomery Scott to help it find a buyer. Two-and-a-half months ago, the liveBooks was forced to lay off 20 percent of its workforce, and customer service has suffered, Patrick says.

Customer service has been one of liveBooks’s strengths, Patrick says, “and it’s not been good over the last few months.

“We had to make cuts, and we couldn’t live up to our standards and the standard people expected.”

Patrick says he has no plans to leave liveBooks. “I have no end date.”

–David Walker

Related articles
liveBooks Acquires Pinhole