Proofpoint buys Fortiva, expands into email archiving

After a courtship that lasted the better part of a year, on-demand security provider Proofpoint finally picked up software-as-a-service email archiving startup Fortiva this week. Based on similar transactions and industry buzz, we estimate this tuck-in acquisition cost Proofpoint somewhere in the neighborhood of $70m. Fortiva, which has 45 employees, was running at about $15-20m in revenue from about 200 enterprise customers. This marks a solid exit for the company’s venture backers, Cargill Ventures, Ventures West and McLean Watson Capital, which only pumped $8m into Fortiva.

The interesting question sparked by this transaction is what’s next for Proofpoint, which is now up to 250 employees. Though some have suggested the company has now effectively dressed itself up as an acquisition target, we believe otherwise. We think an IPO will represent the next major milestone for the company. (In wrap-up of April’s RSA conference, we said as much, adding that an acquisition by Proofpoint was likely in the next few months.)

Proofpoint has drawn in some $86m in funding since its inception in 2002, including a $28m round in February, even though it was running at close to breakeven. With more than 1,600 customers, bookings are up 70% on a year-over-year basis for 2008. The growth comes despite stiff competition. Google, Cisco and Autonomy Corp made a big push into the market last year with their respective acquisitions of Postini, IronPort Systems and Zantaz.

Yet, Proofpoint has held its own against these larger vendors, even recruiting a few high-ranking employees from Postini, we’ve heard. Speaking of hiring at Proofpoint, we would also highlight last year’s move to bring Paul Auvil on board as CFO. Auvil served as the top numbers guy at VMware, guiding that company from the tens of millions of dollars in revenue to hundreds of millions of dollars. Of course, that company never made it fully public. We have a feeling Auvil may yet have a chance to be CFO at a public company, given the direction of Proofpoint.

Select on-demand security deals

Announced Acquirer Target Deal value Target revenue
July 9, 2007 Google Postini $625m $70m*
July 3, 2007 Autonomy Zantaz $375m Not available
May 14, 2007 Verizon Business Cybertrust $450m* $225m*
April 26, 2007 Websense SurfControl $400m $220m
Jan. 4, 2007 Cisco IronPort $830m $100m*
May 19, 2004 Symantec Brightmail $370m $26m

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase, * official 451 Group estimates