Contact: Scott Denne
Startups developing sales-enablement software have been the targets of a recent spate of acquisitions after indulging in readily available venture capital for the burgeoning category. But the early deals appear modest and bigger exits still seem a ways out.
Among the startups in this category, three have sold in the past two months – all of them with modest headcount after several years in the market, suggesting equally modest growth. Two of those, KnowledgeTree and Heighten Software, were lightly funded. The third, ToutApp, raised $20m, making it more representative of the two dozen or so venture-backed startups selling software that enables sales teams to automate processes, share content and analyze their pipelines.
Gobs of venture money combined with an early, confounding market has meant that revenue traction comes via cash-burning investments in evangelism and marketing. Such a situation isn’t likely to draw the most natural acquirers – the largest CRM companies (Salesforce, Oracle and Microsoft) that today address the nascent need for sales enablement mainly through their app stores.
When other categories of sales software have come into their own, those would-be buyers made big purchases. Take configure, price and quote (CPQ) software: both Oracle and Salesforce inked nine-figure acquisitions in that sector. But sales enablement hasn’t yet become as widely embedded into sales workflow as CPQ, so there’s little motivation for CRM vendors to make a strategic-sized investment in a sales-enablement startup until those offerings gel into an obvious complement (or threat) to CRMs.
Still, there’s potential for a steady stream of modest exits for sales-enablement providers. As Marketo did with ToutApp, other B2B marketing software companies could look to this category to build products that connect marketing and sales processes. Likewise, vendors in enterprise content management, file sharing, conference calling and collaboration could reach into this category for software to target a key vertical.
Source: 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase
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