IBM finds a bargain in Silverpop purchase

Contact: Brenon Daly

Fittingly enough for an acquisition to bolster its Smarter Commerce portfolio, IBM appears to have smartly picked up a bargain in its purchase of marketing automation (MA) vendor Silverpop. Big Blue didn’t release terms of the deal, but reports put the transaction value at roughly $250m-300m. Assuming that’s roughly accurate, it would value Silverpop at only about half the valuation that other significant MA providers have received in recent exits.

According to our understanding, Silverpop put up about $80m in sales last year. However, several industry sources have indicated that the Atlanta-based startup was only growing at about 10-15%. Other similar-sized MA firms are vastly outstripping that rate. For instance, Marketo boosted its top line almost 70% in 2013, and we estimate that HubSpot was right in that neighborhood, too. More broadly, a recent report from 451 Research’s MarketMonitor service forecasted 22% CAGR for the overall MA industry over the next four years.

Silverpop’s sluggish growth would appear to have put pressure on its valuation, with IBM paying 3-4x trailing sales for the company. Meanwhile, rivals such as Oracle, Adobe and have paid multiples ranging from roughly 6-10x trailing sales. Overall, the shopping spree has topped $7bn in spending for MA vendors.

Select marketing automation deals

Date announced Acquirer Target Price to sales ratio Deal value
December 20, 2013 Oracle Responsys 7.7x $1.6bn
June 27, 2013 Adobe Systems Neolane 8.6x* $600m
June 4, 2013 ExactTarget 7.6x $2.5bn
December 20, 2012 Oracle Eloqua 9.7x $956m
April 27, 2012 Intuit Demandforce 11.4x* $423.5m
December 22, 2010 Teradata Aprimo 6.3x $525m
August 13, 2010 IBM Unica 4.4x $523m

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase *451 Research estimate

Trust-busters push BazaarVoice to unplug PowerReviews

Contact: Brenon Daly

As industry consolidation goes, Bazaarvoice’s mid-2012 purchase of rival PowerReviews was definitely a small-scale move. The deal only added a little more than $10m – or a boost of about 10% – to the top line at Bazaarvoice, a consumer reviews site that had just gone public at the start of 2012. And while the two startups regularly beat up on each other, they were arguably facing much more formidable competition from rating-and-review offerings that were often baked into the websites of many of the largest and most-active online retailers.

In other words, there was little to suggest that the proposed $152m cash-and-equity transaction would even register any antitrust attention, much less any trustbusting. And yet, on Tuesday afternoon, Bazaarvoice bowed under the pressure of a lawsuit brought a year ago by the US Department of Justice and essentially unwound that acquisition. Bazaarvoice plans to divest PowerReviews to small Chicago-based vendor Viewpoints Network.

Viewpoints has raised just $5m in funding since its founding in 2006 and told us that it won’t need to raise more to cover the purchase of PowerReviews. That suggests Bazaarvoice is recouping only a fraction of the $152m that it paid for PowerReviews two years ago. Viewpoints currently has 20 employees and, post-acquisition, will have about three times that number. Further, it will substantially boost its revenue when it buys PowerReviews, which we estimate is running at about $10m in revenue.

Of course, that assumes the planned acquisition goes through. (Expectations are that the deal will close before the end of July.) At this point, only a letter of intent has been signed between the parties. It still needs to be finalized, and then regulators have to approve the latest purchase of PowerReviews. As we have seen, regulatory clearance is not always a given.

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Bye-bye Ballmer

Contact: Brenon Daly

Lost in the schadenfreude and snark that has accompanied Steve Ballmer’s decision to leave the top spot at Microsoft within a year is one undeniable piece of his legacy: No other tech CEO has accumulated as many assets in key markets as Ballmer.

In addition to the fat-margin franchises that Ballmer inherited, he steered the company on an M&A program that built up offerings around growth markets such as mobility, cloud infrastructure, data warehousing, online communications, digital advertising, collaboration and beyond. During Ballmer’s 13 years running the software giant, Microsoft dropped more than $25bn on its acquisitions.

Of course, there have been M&A missteps. The company has endured big write-offs (aQuantive), gotten burned by targets with dubious accounting (FAST Search & Transfer), drastically overpaid on other acquisitions (Skype), and has seen the period for returns on deals drag beyond a decade (Great Plains Software, Navision).

But in the end, Microsoft has at least brought together a basket of offerings, built on in-house and acquired technology, that makes it relevant in today’s tech market. Want proof of that? Microsoft is actually increasing sales. Granted, it’s only about 5% growth, but at least Microsoft is growing. The same can’t be said for IBM or Oracle or Intel or Dell or Hewlett-Packard. (Oh yeah, and Microsoft is growing while also throwing $20bn to the bottom line each year.)

From our perspective, one of the main challenges for Microsoft’s next CEO will be realizing a return on all of its previous dealmaking. Ballmer’s M&A program has put the pieces in place, but for the most part, they have been underutilized. It’s time for an execution-focused chief executive to wring more value out of the enviable collections of assets that Microsoft has already acquired.

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Two strikes and counting for acquirers of Zimbra

Contact: Brenon Daly

Having already bounced around inside two tech giants before bouncing out of them altogether, Zimbra is now on its third owner in the past seven years. Telligent Systems, a relatively small VC-backed startup, has picked up the back-end email technology provider from VMware, which – in turn – had picked up the castoff business from Yahoo. Although terms weren’t released, we would guess Telligent spent a fraction of the $450m that the two previous buyers handed over for Zimbra.

With two tech giants having already whiffed on their ownership of Zimbra, however, we can’t help but wonder if Telligent’s purchase will be strike three for the once-promising company. The reason we ask is because in each of the deals, Zimbra was acquired in order to be something that it’s not.

For Yahoo, its mid-2007 purchase of Zimbra represented a way to counter Google Apps, which, at the time, was just starting to make its way into universities, small businesses and the service-provider market. Yahoo hosted hundreds of millions of unpaid consumer email accounts, but hadn’t been able to expand into businesses.

Yahoo’s efforts with Zimbra didn’t have any more success than the next owner, VMware. In early 2010, the infrastructure software giant made an ill-advised move into the application layer with Zimbra’s messaging and collaboration products. It has largely retreated from those efforts, divesting both Zimbra and SlideRocket as part of a larger corporate restructuring announced earlier this year.

And now it’s Telligent’s turn to see what it can do with Zimbra. From the outset, we would note that the stakes are much higher for Telligent than for either of the two previous acquirers. Both Yahoo and VMware, which do close to $5bn in annual sales, could absorb the financial impact of a questionable deal that didn’t work out. Privately held Telligent, which we estimate might generate $20m this year, doesn’t have that cushion. (Further, it may not have the brand equity to survive because Telligent is taking the unusual step of using the name of the acquired business for the surviving company.)

Telligent will have to stretch to blend its enterprise social networking products – hyped as real-time, collaborative and far more interactive than plain old email – with Zimbra. Simply put, the approaches come from different eras. Even a company as well-versed in software as Microsoft has recognized that and has adapted its M&A program accordingly. Although Microsoft dropped $1.2bn on social networking startup Yammer a year ago, the software giant only recently started integrating the Web 2.0 company with a select few stalwart programs such as SharePoint and Office, despite the connection between the applications.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @451TechMnA.

Undressing demand for wearable technologies

Contact: Ben Kolada

Still in the fad phase, wearable technology is gaining market interest, driven by new devices being introduced both by tech companies and old-school consumer goods firms. The advent of these new Internet-connected form factors, such as ‘smartwatches,’ fitness and health devices, will spur the creation of new application markets in the technology industry.

Demand for wearable technology is specifically being seen in interest for an Apple iWatch, a smartwatch that many expect will be released later this year. According to a recent report by ChangeWave Research, a service of 451 Research, prerelease demand for the iWatch already matches what the iPad and Intel Mac saw before their respective debuts.

The likely launch of the iWatch and overall emergence of new wearable technology devices, such as Google’s Glass, Nike’s FuelBand, Jawbone’s UP and various devices from Fitbit, will create new markets in application software. For example, there’s already an investment syndicate, called Glass Collective, made up of VC firms Google Ventures, Andreessen Horowitz and Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, that are ready to fund companies building new ways to use Google’s Glass device.

Our senior mobile analyst, Chris Hazelton, believes these devices will create extremely tight bonds between users, the cloud and very likely new technology players. For example, unlike smartphone and tablet apps that are used infrequently or once and discarded, Google Glass apps will be persistent, following and advising a user throughout their day.

If you already own a wearable tech device, or are planning to buy one, let us know what you think of this sector and which applications you think will become most valuable. You can tweet us@451TechMnA or contact us anonymously.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @451TechMnA.

Tableau tees up an IPO

Contact: Brenon Daly

After a pair of tech companies publicly announced their intent to hit the market late last week, we understand that a high-profile private company is coming up right behind them. Tableau Software is rumored to have quietly filed its IPO paperwork under the JOBS Act, according to a number of sources. It’s the first step toward an offering that could value the data-visualization company in the neighborhood of $2bn.

Founded a decade ago, Tableau has grown quickly and steadily as customers snap up its software that helps makes sense of the ever-increasing levels of data. According to our understanding, Tableau was running at less than $10m in 2007, but finished last year at about $110m in sales. The company, which has raised only $15m in venture backing, has also been generating cash in recent years even as it scales its business.

In addition to its stunning growth, Tableau has a number of other characteristics that should play well on Wall Street. It has a larger rival, QlikTech, that enjoys a healthy valuation of 6x trailing sales, even as it grows roughly 20%, or about one-quarter the rate of Tableau. (QlikTech recently forecasted sales for 2013 of roughly $470m, nearly three times Tableau’s expected sales this year.) Further, Tableau is likely to have broad support in the investor community thanks to its long list of rumored underwriters: Goldman Sachs, J.P. Morgan Securities, Morgan Stanley and Credit Suisse, among other banks.

By filing under the recently passed JOBS Act, Tableau can put in a prospectus without publicly revealing it has done so. Assuming the offering goes according to plan, Tableau would likely announce the filing in the next few months and then go on its roadshow. We expect the company to be well received in that process, and it is likely to join the richly valued quartet of enterprise vendors that went public in 2012: Workday, ServiceNow, Palo Alto Networks and Splunk. The cheapest of those four companies trades at 13x trailing sales.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

DoJ raises its voice against Bazaarvoice deal

Contact: Brenon Daly

In a highly unusual move, the US Department of Justice (DoJ) filed a lawsuit Thursday afternoon against a company that has already closed an acquisition of a rival firm, alleging the deal is anticompetitive. The DoJ says Bazaarvoice did not report its $152m cash-and-stock purchase of fellow online customer review site PowerReviews to either the DoJ or Federal Trade Commission. The transaction was announced May 24 and closed quickly thereafter, on June 12.

The DoJ, which began investigating after the deal had already closed, didn’t specify exactly what part of the acquisition it would seek to unwind. The release said only that the lawsuit ‘seeks to restore competition’ in the marketplace, and DoJ representatives didn’t respond to requests for clarification.

For its part, Bazaarvoice said it spent six months explaining that there would be ‘robust and ample’ competition in the social commerce marketplace following the Bazaarvoice-PowerReviews combination. The company plans to fight the lawsuit and indicated it expects to be ‘fully vindicated.’

As we noted at the time of the acquisition – which was Bazaarvoice’s first purchase, coming just three months after its IPO – the deal represented a significant bet on being able to move down-market, expanding Bazaarvoice’s voice-of-customer platform to SMBs. At the time of the announcement, PowerReviews had more customers (1,100) than Bazaarvoice (737), but only slightly more than one-tenth the revenue.

Whatever the outcome, Wall Street’s reaction to the lawsuit was immediate. Bazaarvoice shares were unchanged at about $9 each for virtually the entire session Thursday. But when the DoJ announcement came out in the final hour of trading, the stock plummeted 15% to about $7.50. The selling pressure continued on Friday, with the stock dipping to $6.65 – the lowest level for the shares since their debut last February. All in, the DoJ’s lawsuit has trimmed $165m from Bazaarvoice’s market value.

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The Facebook effect

Contact: Ben Kolada

Facebook’s stratospheric growth has had a profound impact on technology entrepreneurship and exits. In addition to creating some $60bn of market value in its own recent IPO, the company has spawned an ecosystem of vendors hoping to further monetize its one billion customers. A myriad of startups have popped up over the years to help advertisers, marketers and brands manage and deliver their message across Facebook’s platform, which some bulls on the company consider something like a new operating system.

Several of these startups are finally starting to show material sales. As a result, the market overall is being targeted by tech titans looking to become advertising and marketing vendors of choice for agencies and brands. That has led to a dramatic rise in the volume of acquisitions of tech firms serving this segment. Last year set the record in both the volume and value of acquisitions.

Dealmaking this year, however, has already shattered that total spending record: The $3.6bn spent so far this year on social-related companies is already twice the 2011 total. The M&A is being driven by phenomenal growth rates in the social media market. As a proxy for that, consider Facebook’s monthly active user (MAU) count, which has grown at a compound annual growth rate of 132% from its founding in 2004 to 2011.

The social media sector’s growth is leading to top-dollar prices for hot startups. Buddy Media, probably the largest social media marketing platform vendor, increased revenue 250% last year. On Monday, officially announced that it is paying $689m for Buddy Media. Meanwhile, Google and Meebo made their pairing official: Google is reportedly paying $100m for the social networking and user engagement vendor. Oracle just paid an estimated $325m for social marketing provider Vitrue to gain capabilities competitive to what Buddy Media offers. (And the enterprise software giant tucked in Collective Intellect for social media monitoring on Tuesday.) And finally, even old-line vendor IBM has inked a high-priced deal in the market, likely paying north of $200m for social sentiment provider Tealeaf Technology last month.

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase *Includes transactions in social software, social networking and related categories. puts $1bn to work to buy parts of its Marketing Cloud

Contact: Brenon Daly has now shelled out a cool billion dollars to acquire the makings of its Marketing Cloud. The marketing offering, which is built on the back of the company’s two largest acquisitions, represents the most significant push to grow beyond the on-demand sales force automation product that it’s primarily known for. At stake: billions of dollars of market value for the richly valued SaaS kingpin.

On Monday, the company announced that it will pay $689m in cash and stock for Buddy Media, a social media marketing platform that counts 8 of the 10 largest advertisers as clients. The business, which should officially become part of by the end of October, will be combined with Radian6, a social media monitoring startup that picked up a little over a year ago for $326m.

Both transactions valued the target companies at a double-digit price-to-trailing-sales multiple. Buddy Media is being valued at an eye-popping 27 times 2011 revenue, roughly twice the valuation that Radian6 garnered. For its part, trades a little above 7x trailing sales. has shown through its M&A program – where it has acquired core parts of not only its Marketing Cloud, but also its Service Cloud offering – that the company is acutely aware that it can’t sustain an above-market valuation on a single product. With its platform being built on ever-pricier acquisitions, is gambling that it can use M&A to pull off a portfolio expansion that precious few software vendors have done successfully. To date, it’s been hard to bet against the company: Since its shares came public almost eight years ago, is up more than 700%, compared to a flatline S&P 500 over that same period.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

Facebook’s $16bn IPO: raised above the Valley

Contact: Brenon Daly

As IPOs go, Facebook is far more Silicon Valley than Wall Street. That was clear from the social networking giant’s roadshow this month, where 20-something CEO Mark Zuckerberg could hardly be bothered to meet with the institutional investors who do most of the buying of new offerings. (When Zuck did attend the meet and greets with the pinstripes, he wore a hoodie.) And if there was any lingering doubt about it, consider the fact that Zuck stayed at home at the company’s headquarters in Menlo Park, California rather than travel to New York City to ring the opening bell on Nasdaq.

And yet, Facebook is hardly representative of a Valley company – much less a Valley IPO. First, there’s the not-so-small matter of its $100bn market capitalization. But even beyond the valuation, the $16bn that Facebook just raised in its offering is probably more than all the tech companies that go public in the next three years or so will raise, collectively.

Our rough math: Facebook took in $16bn in today’s debut (of that amount, nearly $7bn will go to the company, with the remaining $9bn or so going to company executives and investors). In comparison, the typical tech IPO brings in, say, $100m or maybe $150m. In our surveys, investment bankers and corporate development executives have been consistently forecasting about 25 tech IPOs in each of the recent years. So assuming that rate holds – or even increases slightly – we’re still looking at roughly four years of IPOs to get to the more than 100 offerings to raise the same amount as Facebook.

Even a blockbuster IPO like Splunk had just a month ago raised just dimes compared with Facebook. Underwriters ended up selling 13.5 million shares in the enterprise data search firm at $17 each, which was roughly twice the price of the original range. That meant Splunk raised $321m in its IPO – or only about one-fiftieth the amount Facebook just raised.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.