NetQoS: a small buy on the way to a sale

On its way to a probable public offering next year, NetQoS has acquired a startup that will boost the company’s offering to the financial services industry. On Tuesday, NetQoS said it’ll pay a small amount of cash for Helium Systems, which makes trade monitoring software. (Helium isn’t expected to add much revenue to NetQos, which has been tracking to $60m this year, up from $45m in 2007.)

Indeed, organic growth has been the story at NetQoS, since the Helium acquisition is the first by the company in nearly two-and-a-half years. But the pace may be about to pick up. The reason? As it gets ready to put together an underwriting ticket for an IPO down the road, NetQoS has found (surprise, surprise) that bankers are also pitching other deals. Meanwhile, for its part, the company has started to look at ways to fill up its corporate coffers if it finds a deal that’s too good to pass up.

Thus far, NetQoS has been remarkably conservative in its capitalization, raising just $21m total. (Liberty Partners, a New York PE firm that typically invests in midmarket companies, is the majority owner of NetQoS and the company’s only institutional investor.) NetQoS, which has been cash-flow positive since 2005, hasn’t taken any outside money in a half-decade. But with an IPO payday likely in 2009, we’re guessing NetQoS wouldn’t have any trouble lining up funds, either from its current backer or even a new partner. 

NetQoS acquisitions

Date Target Rationale
June 2008 Helium Systems Trade monitoring
Dec. 2005 Pine Mountain Group Services
April 2005 RedPoint Network Systems Device management

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase

An Oak accord

Oak Investment Partners has finally helped broker a marriage for portfolio company Talisma – a full half-decade after the startup stumbled on its way down the aisle. In both cases, however, it isn’t exactly clear whether the investment firm should be sitting on the bride’s side or the groom’s side at the wedding. In fact, Oak would have a seat on both sides of the aisle.

In this go-round for Talisma, Oak’s late-March investment of $50m in nGenera helped the SaaS rollup add Talisma to its portfolio. If the strategy sounds familiar, it’s because Oak, which owns a majority of Talisma, had a nearly identical plan for the CRM vendor in late 2003. In that case, Oak wanted to stitch together Talisma with fellow portfolio company Pivotal Corp, in a deal that valued publicly traded Pivotal at $48m. Just as that deal was heading toward a vote, however, two other companies outbid Oak for Pivotal. (First, it was Onyx Software, then it was CDC Software. Of course, those companies would go at it again three years later when CDC tried to spoil the purchase of Onyx by Consona, which was then known as M2M Holdings.)

What exactly Oak plans to do with its newly enlarged portfolio company, nGenera, is anyone’s guess. However, it could do a lot worse than follow the strategy of Consona, which was taken private by Battery Ventures. Since the LBO, we understand Battery has pulled out something like six times its money from the CRM rollup, which is still rolling along. Maybe nGenera will serve as Oak’s enterprise SaaS rollup. The company has already done six deals – and counting. 

nGenera’s (fka BSG Alliance) acquisitive history

Announced Target Deal value Target description
May 21, 2008 Talisma Not disclosed SaaS customer service automation
March 5, 2008 Iconixx Not disclosed On-demand talent management HR software
Oct. 3, 2007 Industrial Science Not disclosed Business simulation software
Nov. 29, 2007 New Paradigm Not disclosed Research company
Sept. 13, 2007 Kalivo Not disclosed On-demand collaboration provider
May 7, 2007 The Concours Group Not disclosed Research and executive education firm