A big ‘DATA’ debut for Tableau

Contact: Brenon Daly

Big ‘DATA’, indeed. Tableau Software, which debuted Friday on the NYSE under the ticker DATA, created nearly $3bn of market value in its hotly anticipated IPO. The data discovery and analytics vendor becomes the latest enterprise-focused software company to command a platinum valuation on Wall Street.

Tableau priced its 8.2 million shares at $31 each, raising some $254m in the offering. Not that the company particularly needed the outside cash: It has been running in the black since 2010 and has an accumulated deficit of just $5.8m. And Tableau has been printing black numbers while doubling revenue, a rare combination that clearly resonated with investors.

After pricing at $31, shares changed hands at about $48 each in the early aftermarket. Based on the (non-diluted) share count of 58 million shares from the prospectus, the market is valuing Tableau at $2.8bn.

That’s 14x a loose projection of roughly $200m in sales for 2013. We penciled out that number based on the (probably conservative) assumption of nearly 60% growth in revenue from the $128m recorded in 2012. Whatever the exact numbers, it’s safe to say that Tableau has secured a double-digit multiple of this year’s sales.

The rarified valuation is all the more noteworthy because of Tableau’s throwback business model: It sells on-premises licenses, rather than subscriptions, which typically command higher multiples. Of course, when license sales are doubling – as they have at Tableau in each of the past two years – Wall Street can get comfortable with the model.

As a final thought, we would note that the license model certainly hasn’t hurt Splunk, which went public a year ago. While that company doesn’t compete with Tableau, the fellow self-described ‘big data’ play lines up rather closely with Tableau.

As mentioned, both fast-growing companies sell their software through licenses rather than subscriptions, and both get about 30% of total sales through maintenance and services on that software. Further, the similarities extend to what the market says the companies are worth: Splunk is valued at $4.6bn, or 23x last year’s revenue, compared with Tableau debuting at $2.8bn, or 22x last year’s sales.

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