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The marriage of BloomReach and Hippo is a big deal for personalizing the web. It's also a chance to reflect on the importance of rich culture.

Can't have a party without balloons. Combining Hippo and BloomReach colors. Can't have a party without balloons. Combining Hippo and BloomReach colors.

Today I start work in a new company — and so do all my co-workers, and a bunch of new co-workers.

BloomReach has acquired Amsterdam-based content management system company Hippo and today we formally join forces to build the first open and intelligent digital experience platform.

It’s one of the great things about working at the center of the ongoing digital revolution: Things change all the time. But sometimes, like today, they change in ways that are vastly more significant than at other times.

The combination of BloomReach and Hippo forms a pioneer in the coming phase of commerce and communication on the web — a platform with the potential to dramatically improve every interaction for every web user. “It’s been awesome to work with these guys,” BloomReach CEO Raj De Datta said, while announcing the acquisition to BloomReach employees. “I think together we’re going to do something really great.”

OK, maybe my calling it a “new company” is less than precise. BloomReach is a bigger company. A company with a significantly wider scope. And it’s definitely a company starting a new chapter. But we are still BloomReach. In a meeting to discuss the acquisition with BloomReach employees — and with Hippo’s founders present via teleconference — De Datta described the move as the start of BloomReach’s Chapter 3.

We’ll get to the first two in a minute. But the third chapter? It’s big, if we do say so ourselves. It means that digital businesses, which is pretty much all businesses, will be able to harness algorithms and machine learning to offer individually relevant recommendations concerning products and services — and content, too. hippo-bloom-header It’s a major step in the direction of “BloomReaching the web,” or making every digital experience personally relevant for every individual digital consumer.

It’s been a long-term goal since the company started. In a world where consumers are in control — where digitally empowered users decide how, when and where to shop and how, when and where to consume information and content — it’s vital to be able to deliver the right content to the right person on the right device at the right time.

That’s especially true when the right device might be a laptop, smartphone, tablet, credit-card reader, auto dashboard, kiosk, touch screen, shopping cart, electronic sign or even arena scoreboard.

Milestones provide a time to focus on culture But the BloomReach/Hippo deal is big for other reasons, too. It is big for the two companies that are becoming one. Nearly three years ago, on BloomReach’s fifth anniversary, I wrote about the importance of company culture as an ingredient in startup success.

There is only so much a manager or executive can control. The bigger the company, the harder it is. Instead, a company needs to be infused with a way of doing things; of treating people, partners and customers.

That is culture. “Culture is absolutely crucial in helping people amplify the strengths of each other and cancel out the weaknesses,” Silicon Valley scholar Paul Saffo told me at the time. “Good culture is where people stand on each other's shoulders. And bad culture is where people stand on each other’s toes.” A big day like today, the marriage of two companies, is a chance to re-examine and remember why those values are important. At BloomReach, the company values are often stated in shorthand — Truth, Own, We, Think and No Drama. Hippo team members conduct their quarterly business review aboard a boat, of course. Hippo team members conduct their quarterly business review aboard a boat, of course. 

And, De Datta said, those values were at the forefront of the talks with Hippo, which was equally focused on connecting with a company that shared its own long-held values. (You’d expect no less from a company that holds “beer and fun” as two key pillars that support the company.) “The culture has been the driving force behind Hippo. Product and culture at Hippo goes hand-in-hand,” says Varia Makagonova, Hippo’s global communication manager. “For all of us at Hippo, it’s really clear that we wouldn’t have merged with another company if it didn’t match our company values. That’s how important it is.”

Hippo and BloomReach's culture convergence In her time at Hippo, Makagonova has written about the culture and camaraderie at the company. In fact, it turns out, Hippo has a culture shorthand of its own, one that is remarkably similar to BloomReach’s — Committed (Own), Outspoken (Truth), Smart (Think), Together (We), Humorous (No Drama). Keeping that corporate DNA front-and-center has kept Hippo grounded and growing into a global enterprise still run by its original foundersJeroen Verberg, Arje Cahn and Tjeerd Brenninkmeijer. And living its corporate values has powered BloomReach through two chapters of its story and to the beginning of Chapter 3. (De Datta talks about BloomReach’s commitment culture in the video below.)

Oh yeah, the first two chapters? While meeting with employees, De Datta laid them out this way: Chapter 1 covered the first three years of the company’s life, a time when BloomReach had one product that was focused on organic search.

Chapter 2 lasted the next four years, years during which BloomReach added two more products — one optimizing site search and the onsite experience and another providing instant and actionable data for site merchandisers.

Chapter 3 starts today. Back when I wrote about BloomReach’s fifth anniversary, I made the point that the benefit of celebrating corporate milestones (and there was some celebrating, indeed), isn’t so much being able to revel in the congratulatory glow.

It is more a chance to stop and think about how a company, particularly how the people in the company, got the company to the milestone it’s celebrating.

It’s a time to think about what went right and what went wrong; a time to appreciate those you work with and their role in the success you all enjoy.

Today, we have dozens of more co-workers to appreciate — and we’ll surely do that. And then, all of us together, will go about the business of writing Chapter 3.

Photos by BloomReach/Hippo. Mike Cassidy is BloomReach’s storyteller. Contact him at mike.cassidy@bloomreach.com; follow him on Twitter at @mikecassidy.