Mid-tier player scales up through merger

With its first deal since being acquired by a private equity firm, Sentinel has quickly made its own transformative merger to move deeper into the middle tier.

Fresh off its acquisition by a private equity firm new to the federal market, Sentinel has moved quickly on its next transformative deal to move further up the middle tier.

Washington, D.C.-based Sentinel is merging with fellow government consulting firm E3 Federal Solutions to create a larger player in the vast mid-market landscape of the market that includes contractors anywhere between $50 million and $1 billion.

And as Sentinel CEO Andy Maner describes it, the government market is demanding “that in the middle market, you have a company rich with innovation and an entrepreneurial spirit.”

“It’s not enough to just show up. We want to bring a platform that’s deep in industry knowledge and with technology as a focus,” Maner told me Wednesday. “Having the opportunity to combine with (E3) is monumental for us.”

Sentinel was purchased by Philadelphia-based private equity firm NewSpring Holdings in September to represent that investment group’s entry into the federal services market. That addition of Sentinel created a fourth platform for NewSpring and from which more acquisitions could happen in a deal-frenzied environment for government contractors of all shapes and sizes.

The combined Sentinel-E3 business will count as customers agencies across the defense, intelligence, homeland security, law enforcement and other civilian domains. Maner said E3 particularly has grown in the law enforcement and intelligence markets in conjunction with its 14-year history at the Homeland Security Department.

Together, the companies have 700 total professionals on staff that focus on consulting, IT, program management, systems engineering and other technical services. E3 was founded in 2004 and is based out of McLean, Virginia. Maner will lead the combined business as CEO with E3’s founder Everett Johnson taking up the president role.

When I first spoke with Maner after the NewSpring deal, he indicated that Sentinel would look to apply NewSpring’s deal making and platform-building experiences along with the focus on organic growth.

In E3, Maner said they found a partner “much bigger than Sentinel” that is on a “journey much more broad and deep.”

“But it’s all about breadth of capability, contract vehicles and customers. We all seek that and they in some cases have been at customers for more than 10 years,” Maner said. “That’s how you get trusted by customers with their most important missions.”

Where the combined Sentinel-E3 business is looking to place itself is in technology insertion work given investments agencies have made in new innovations. This covers “solutions that can snap into these mission sets seamlessly,” Maner said.

“We believe that companies like ours need to show up ready to solve problems, offer solutions and create outcomes as opposed to just showing up with people,” he added. “We’re trying to show up as an integrated company because that’s what customers demand.”

Started in 1999, NewSpring manages nearly $1.8 billion in assets across more than 140 companies.

Maner and other members of Sentinel’s leadership team built up the former National Interest Security Corporation before its sale to IBM in 2010, after which Maner later became managing director for Big Blue’s federal practice.