Startup scrap sales

With new funding difficult to come by, many cash-burning startups are finding that they have no choice but to take a scrap sale. Those desperate deals cut M&A spending on VC-backed startups in the second half of 2008 by nearly three-quarters over the same period in 2007. From July to December last year, 100 venture-backed startups got acquired, for a total bill of just $3bn. That compares to 153 startups sold for a total of $11.1bn during the same period in 2007.

And we’ve seen more of these types of deals so far this year. Oracle, SAP, Barracuda Networks and Quest Software, among other large technology buyers, have all purchased companies for less than the money raised by the startups, according to our estimates. Consider the specific case of Mirage Networks. The network access control (NAC) vendor raised some $40m before discovering that NAC wasn’t really a market after all. (The eight-year-old company generated an estimated $5m in sales last year.) Trustwave picked up Mirage for some $10m, we estimate. Meanwhile, Mazu Networks will have to hit all of its earn-outs to make its investors whole again. About a month ago, Riverbed Technology said that it would pay $25m upfront for the network security vendor, with a possible $22m earn-out. That’s actually not a bad outcome for unprofitable Mazu, which we understand was burning about $1m each quarter. And yesterday, Netezza picked up the assets of data-auditing and protection vendor Tizor Systems for $3.1m; Tizor had raised $26m from investors.

VC-backed tech startups M&A

Month 2007 deal volume 2007 deal value 2008 deal volume 2008 deal value
July 23 $2.3bn 21 $994m
August 18 $1.2bn 16 $497m
September 25 $1.7bn 16 $642m
October 39 $2bn 13 $487m
November 27 $3.1bn 20 $346m
December 21 $788m 14 $56m
Total 153 $11.1bn 100 $3bn

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase

Barracuda bares its teeth

Never known as a shy or retiring competitor, Barracuda Networks has lobbed an unsolicited bid to acquire Sourcefire for $7.50 per share in cash. (Full report.) That works out to a slight 13% premium on Sourcefire’s closing price ahead of the bid, and essentially where the shares began 2008.

We look at Barracuda’s bid as setting a ‘floor price’ for Sourcefire. It is certainly an opportunistic offer, as Sourcefire has been burned on Wall Street. (The company didn’t help itself when it came up short of investors’ expectations in its first quarter as a public company a year ago.) To get this deal closed, however, we suspect Barracuda will have to raise its bid. Investors have already pushed Sourcefire shares above the offer price.

To push this deal along, Barracuda can draw on the experience of one of its two outside backers, Francisco Partners. The buyout shop took IT security appliance vendor WatchGuard Technologies private in July 2006 after a protracted and bitter campaign.