Big Data means Big Dollars for VCs

Contact: Brenon Daly

Just since last summer, the data-warehousing industry has seen a wave of consolidation sweep most of the sizable startups into the portfolios of larger vendors. While dramatically reshaping the industry, the concentrated dealmaking has also generated outsized returns for venture firms that have put money into some of the startups that are tackling the problems of ‘big data.’ By our calculation, the four recent data-warehousing exits – on average – have been 10-baggers for their backers.

The eight-month M&A spree started last July, when EMC reached for Greenplum. Two months later it was IBM’s turn to take out Netezza, the sole data-warehousing startup that had actually made it to the public market in recent years. In mid-February, Hewlett-Packard reversed its long-held strategy to stay with internal data-warehousing development and gobbled up Vertica Systems. And then just last week, the granddaddy of the industry, Teradata, snagged Aster Data Systems.

This run of deals has been a welcome development for venture capitalists, who have been starved recently for moneymaking exits. Consider this: the quartet of data-warehousing startups that have been snapped up have returned some $2.5bn to their investors, an astonishing 10 times the $245m that they collectively raised. (The total funding for the startups comes from The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase, which recently added venture information to many of the deal records.) Taking a dime and turning it into a dollar is a pretty nifty trick – and it’s one that most VCs haven’t been able to pull off across any sector of enterprise IT in a long, long time.

Select recent data-warehousing deals

Date announced Acquirer Target Price VC raised by target
March 3, 2011 Teradata Aster Data Systems $295m $57m
February 14, 2011 HP Vertica Systems $275m* (excluding earnout) $25m
September 20, 2010 IBM Netezza $1.8bn $73m
July 6, 2010 EMC Greenplum $400m* $90m

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase *451 Group estimate

A bit of Big Blue inconsistency

Contact: Brenon Daly

Perhaps Mark Hurd feels vindicated. No, we’re not referring to the former Hewlett-Packard chief executive settling a lawsuit with his old shop. Instead, we’re talking about IBM’s stunning flip-flop with regard to high-profile M&A by itself and rival HP. At the least, Big Blue’s recent comments now appear inconsistent; at the worst, they smack of hypocrisy.

The specifics: A week ago, Big Blue’s CEO was blasting HP for ‘overpaying’ for deals, and for relying on M&A rather than R&D. Ironically, Sam Palmisano made these comments just as his own company was putting the final touches on its acquisition of Netezza, a deal that values the data-warehousing vendor at nearly 7 times this year’s forecasted sales for the current fiscal year. That’s more than twice the median software valuation, and basically matches the valuation that HP is handing over for ArcSight.

Incidentally, both transactions valued the targets, which had only come public within the past three years, at their highest-ever valuations. But if we look at how the shares of ArcSight and Netezza have performed so far this year, it becomes very clear that IBM was the much more aggressive suitor. Excluding the pop ArcSight shares got when word of a deal leaked in late August, the security vendor’s stock had only ticked up about 10%. In contrast, Netezza stock had run 150% from January to the day before Big Blue announced its purchase.