Captive deal

For many startups, the deeper a partnership is, the shallower the pool of potential acquirers. Consider the case of SwapDrive and this week’s quiet sale to Symantec. The two sides inked an OEM agreement nearly two years ago – a bit of paperwork that turned out to be a precursor to an M&A contract. With Symantec likely accounting for a majority of sales at SwapDrive, a trade sale seemed the realistic exit for SwapDrive. That became even more likely as sales of Norton 360, which is based on the technology supplied by SwapDrive, outstripped Symantec’s early projections, according to our understanding. The Norton 360/SwapDrive offering targets the consumer market, which complements the company’s enterprise-focused Symantec Protection Network.

However, perhaps because it was essentially a captive deal, SwapDrive ended up getting taken out at a significant discount to its rival Berkeley Data Systems. Just half a year ago EMC shelled out $76m for Berkeley Data, which runs the Mozy service. We understand Mozy generated about $8m in sales in the year leading up to the sale, meaning EMC paid 9.5 times sales for the online backup startup. In contrast, SwapDrive went for 5.6 times trailing sales. According to reports, Symantec paid $123m for SwapDrive, which was running at $22m.

Symantec’s purchase of SwapDrive continues a run of larger storage players snagging online backup vendors. The earlier deals – inked by Iron Mountain and Seagate Technology – got done at multiples closer to Symantec-SwapDrive, although the market has heated up a bit since those first combinations. We wonder what that will mean for the last remaining online backup vendor of note: Carbonite Inc. The company took in $20m in its series B in February and has indicated it’s looking for an IPO late next year. Who knows, maybe the window will be open by then. 

Selected online backup deals

Acquirer Target Date Price Target revenue
Symantec SwapDrive June 2008 $123m* $22m*
EMC Berkeley Data Systems [Mozy] Oct. 2007 $76m* $8m*
Seagate EVault Dec. 2006 $185m $35m*
Iron Mountain LiveVault Dec. 2005 $42m $10m

*estimated, Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase