App consultancy agency Shape aims to become the world’s largest in its market, partnering with Waterland Private Equity, which acquires a majority stake in the company.
Established in 2010 with a bold ambition to become Denmark’s biggest and best app provider, Shape has since grown to over 100 employees with a client roster that includes international heavyweights such as IKEA, Red Bull, and Credit Suisse, as well as a host of renowned Danish companies like Fitness World, Bang & Olufsen, OK a.m.b.a., Solar, Aller Media, and Novo Nordisk. At the same time, Shape has become one of the country’s leading digital agencies in terms of annual growth and earnings. Waterland’s investment in Shape reflects a shared objective to create the largest worldwide app development consultancy.
Shape was initially founded by Christian Risom, Nicolas Linde, Ole Gammelgaard Poulsen, and Philip Bruce, who also established and spun off an iGaming business Shape Games, which itself grew to over 120 employees before being sold in 2022. Day to day management of Shape was handed over to Kristian Duvald Friis, Søren Ulrikkeholm, Allan Aurelius, and Villads Riber Mink in 2020, with the founders remaining as Board members and holding shares through their investment fund, Upright Capital.
Shape has always strived to achieve a unique market position through long-standing customer relationships, work that tangibly contributes to clients’ bottom lines, and a focus on being the best in the market for app development. This ambition will now be pursued globally, with Waterland Private Equity serving as the ideal partner. Founded in the Netherlands in 1999 and led in Denmark by Kaspar Kristiansen, the Dutch capital fund has previously invested in renowned agencies such as DEPT, iO, and Sideshow.
Waterland’s approach to acquisitions and business development through the buy-and-build model, as well as their specialisation in elevating well-established businesses to a global level, sets them apart from other funds. With Waterland’s backing, Shape will form a robust platform for further organic growth and expansion through acquisitions.
Christian Risom, co-founder of Shape, shares his excitement about Waterland and the upcoming plans for expansion, “Upright Capital chose Waterland as a partner to create a global product agency powerhouse because their musketeer spirit and ability to make swift decisions give us unique flexibility and strength. Shape will form partnerships with app specialists who until now have preferred to stand on their own, rather than accepting acquisition and roll-up offers from generalist agencies. The new ownership group is seeking to partner with the elite players, not the wider market. We will continue to be known for creating the best products in the world within our field.”
The global growth ambitions for the new partnership are immense and require significant investment. Over the years, digital consultancies have undergone substantial consolidation, which Waterland has participated in through various portfolio companies. So far, consolidation has been limited among businesses specialising in app development. Shape and Waterland see huge potential and intend to invest in the area.
For day-to-day management, this development is the natural next step for the company. Kristian Duvald Friis, Managing Director of Shape, said the following about the new partnership with Waterland Private Equity, “Waterland has understood our business model and culture from day one. Shape was created to develop premium apps that make our customers winners in the digital world. Together with Waterland, we will strengthen our business and continue to promote our competencies for the benefit of our customers. We still firmly believe that the digital battle must primarily be won on mobile – and we want to create the strongest international platform for that.”
Expectations are also high at Waterland. Experiences from previous investments in consultancies and agencies that have become market leaders through international expansion will be a critical factor in realising Shape’s ambitions. Kaspar Kristiansen, Managing Partner for Waterland Nordics, states, “Shape has built a strong platform and a well-run business by relentlessly focusing on its key competencies, quality, and customer satisfaction in a market with promising development opportunities and growth prospects. We have great confidence that Shape’s management and employees, with the right investment, can make a global impact and fulfil growth ambitions in the coming years. We look forward to contributing to this positive development.”
Waterland’s investment will not entail any changes to the day-to-day management or organisation of the company, nor will existing customer relationships be affected. The parties have agreed not to disclose the purchase price.