SuccessFactors works the other side of the deal

Contact: Brenon Daly

In one of the quickest M&A turnarounds, SuccessFactors has gone from a seller to a buyer in just a matter of days. The human capital management (HCM) vendor announced over the weekend that it would be selling itself to SAP for $3.4bn in cash, the largest-ever SaaS deal. The ink was hardly dry on that transaction when SuccessFactors said on Tuesday that it will hand over $110m for Jobs2Web, a recruiting marketing platform with about 150 customers. (For the record, the mammoth SAP-SuccessFactors pairing is expected to close in the first quarter of 2012, while SuccessFactors’ purchase of the Minnesota-based startup should be done by the end of the year.)

The addition of Jobs2Web makes a great deal of sense for SuccessFactors, and in some ways, it shares some similarities to another deal earlier this year –’s $326m pickup of Radian6. In both cases, the startups added technology around mining social media sources and powerful analytics to expand the acquirer’s existing product portfolio.

There are even more similarities between Jobs2Web and Radian6, besides simply having numerals in their names. Both startups were founded far from any of the typical launch pads for tech companies. Jobs2Web has its headquarters in Minnetonka, Minnesota, while Radian6 was in the even more remote location of Fredericton, Canada.

But more importantly, both targets were incredibly capital efficient, each raising about $5m in VC on their way to a solidly valued exit. (Updata Partners was the sole institutional backer for Jobs2Web, which was advised in its sale by Raymond James & Associates.) According to our understanding, Jobs2Web garnered a valuation of roughly 6 times sales in its sale, while Radian6 was valued north of that.

SAP looks to SuccessFactors for success in the cloud

Contact: Brenon Daly

After struggling for years to build its own on-demand offering, SAP plans to buy its way into cloud-based software, handing over $3.65bn for SuccessFactors in what would be the largest-ever SaaS acquisition. The deal combines the largest ERP vendor, which has some 500 million users, with the fast-growing human capital management (HCM) provider. However, the acquisition, which is slated to close in the first quarter of next year, does face some challenges. J.P. Morgan Securities advised SAP on the transaction, while Morgan Stanley banked SuccessFactors, after leading its IPO four years ago.

SAP, which is 30 years older than SuccessFactors, has consistently pulled back the targets for its Business ByDesign SaaS suite since it started talking about it a half-decade ago. The difficulty in moving more quickly into a subscription-based software model is underscored by the fact that even after it drops $3.65bn to make SuccessFactors its cloud-based HCM product, SAP will continue to sell its own existing on-premises talent management offering. In fairness, we had our doubts about SAP’s previous big deal – the $6.1bn purchase of Sybase in mid-2010, which thrust the German giant into a host of new markets, including mobility and databases – but the early returns from that combination have been fairly solid.

However, when we compare SAP’s two most recent significant acquisitions, we can’t help but be struck by one gigantic discrepancy: valuation. SAP is paying a price-to-sales multiple that’s roughly twice as rich for SuccessFactors compared to the one it paid for Sybase. SuccessFactors is projected to do about $330m in sales in 2011, meaning it is garnering a rich 10 times revenue valuation, while Sybase traded at about 5x revenue. Obviously, SuccessFactors’ projected growth of 57% this year goes a long way toward explaining that premium, as does the fact that it’s a subscription-based business with 15 million subscribers. But even when compared with Oracle’s recent purchase of RightNow, which went off at about 6.6x trailing sales, SAP’s move seems pricey. We’ll have a full report on the transaction in tonight’s Daily 451.

SuccessFactors pays a peak price for Plateau

Contact: Brenon Daly

Plateau Systems certainly got a peak price from SuccessFactors. At $290m, the cash-and-stock acquisition is the largest purchase of a privately held human capital management (HCM) vendor. In fact, the pending purchase of Plateau is larger than a half-dozen acquisitions of public HCM companies we have recorded in recent years.

Similarly, the deal – which is roughly three times more than SuccessFactors had spent, collectively, on M&A – also stands out when compared to the two most-significant transactions in the learning management software (LMS) market where Plateau does its business.

Earlier this year, private equity-backed SumTotal Systems paid an estimated $150m for GeoLearning while a half-year ago, SuccessFactors’ direct rival Taleo handed over $125m for Just as those two deals have a lower aggregate price than Plateau’s price, publicly traded LMS vendor Saba Software actually garners a lower valuation on the market ($270m) than Plateau is set to receive in its sale.

Cornerstone: the newest — and priciest — HCM vendor

Contact: Brenon Daly

So much for the ‘debut discount.’ Cornerstone OnDemand hit the market Thursday at an eye-popping valuation, going against the recent trend toward conservative pricing for new issues. The human capital management (HCM) vendor priced its shares at $13 each, above the indicated range of $9-11 each. (Goldman Sachs & Co and Barclays Capital are leading the IPO.) By early afternoon Thursday, the stock was changing hands at about $19.

The offering gives Cornerstone one of the richest valuations of any recent IPO. At $19 per share, the company’s market cap is roughly $900m. That’s 15 times trailing bookings (not sales) and likely in the neighborhood of 9x projected bookings. (Our math: Cornerstone reported 2010 bookings of $61m, up 74% from the previous year. Assuming that the growth rate comes down a smidge to 60-65% for 2011, that would put Cornerstone’s full-year bookings at $100m, give or take.)

Cornerstone’s valuation vastly outstrips what the market says rival Taleo is worth, and even puts it ahead of SuccessFactors, which had been the HCM industry’s ‘favorite child.’ (That’s been the view on Wall Street, anyway.) SuccessFactors, which went public in late 2007, currently garners a $2.7bn market cap, roughly 10.5x trailing bookings and about 8x projected 2011 bookings. We should note that both SuccessFactors and Taleo are about four times the size of their newest rival on the public market. But for now, both of them are looking up at Cornerstone.

What’s ultimate destination for Ultimate Software?

Contact: Brenon Daly

After 20 years in business, Ultimate Software may be looking for a new owner. The human capital management (HCM) vendor is rumored to have retained Lazard to shop the company, market sources have told us. The bank will run a narrow process, likely approaching about a half-dozen possible buyers rather than running a full auction, the sources added.

The decision by Ultimate to test the market comes as deal flow in the HCM sector has hit a record level. In 2010, we tallied some $2.4bn in spending on deals, slightly eclipsing the previous record of $2.1bn in 2007, according to The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase. Valuations across the space have been soaring, and Ultimate is no exception. This time last year, shares of the Weston, Florida-based company were changing hands at about $30 each. Now, they’re at $50 – an all-time high. That gives Ultimate a market value of $1.25bn, roughly 4.6 times projected 2011 sales of $270m.

Much of the gain can be chalked up to the company’s decision a few years ago to switch from selling software licenses to a subscription model. (It’s a move that has proved incredibly lucrative for other old-line software companies, as well. Shares of Concur Technologies, which underwent a similar shift in sales model a few years ago, have quadrupled over the past five years and are now valued at $2.8bn.) Ultimate stopped selling new software licenses in April 2009 and recurring revenue (made up of both subscription and maintenance revenue) is now more than three-quarters of total sales.

Laying out a dual track for Conerstone

Contact: Brenon Daly

If current IPO candidate Cornerstone OnDemand is looking for a company to model itself on – at least in terms of the offering and after-market trading – it could do a lot worse than SuccessFactors. Both vendors sell human capital management (HCM) software, and both sell it on a subscription basis. Further, both companies were relatively small (sub-$40m in revenue) and running deeply in the red when they put in their paperwork. Not that it has mattered in the case of SuccessFactors. Shares in the company have tripled from the offer price, giving it an eye-popping market valuation of $2.3bn.

Whether Cornerstone will enjoy an equally remarkable run as a public company remains to be seen. (The company, which initially filed in September, would probably be looking at pricing in the first half of next year.) But in a recent report, we wonder if Cornerstone will even make it to the Nasdaq at all. The reason? The M&A market for HCM vendors has been hot lately. Spending on deals in the market so far this year is running at three times the level of both 2008 and 2009. And valuations, for the most part, continue to come in at above-market multiples.

In the report, we speculate on two potential buyers: one that’s obvious (ADP) and one that’s more of a stretch ( Cornerstone has some traits that would clearly appeal to both, as well as some that make a trade sale to either would-be acquirer less likely. ADP, which has already purchased a half-dozen HCM providers, currently has a five-year reselling agreement with Cornerstone, and even holds rights to some warrants in the startup. However, a closer reading of Cornerstone’s prospectus indicates that the early returns from that reselling arrangement haven’t been encouraging, with the two sides feuding over whether or not ADP has hit the agreed-upon sales targets and is, therefore, entitled to warrants that could be worth several million dollars.

Unlike ADP, which has a demonstrated interest in and appetite for HCM deals, is a much more speculative buyer for Cornerstone. But it’s a pairing that is perhaps not as farfetched as it might seem. After all, has long said that it wants to be relevant to all employees at a business, not just to those in sales. Buying Cornerstone would immediately give a high-profile presence in the HCM market, opening up an opportunity that far exceeds its core CRM market. Of course, a major acquisition like this would go against the direction that has taken as an open, all-inclusive platform provider.

Is GeoLearning the next to go?

Contact: Brenon Daly

While the employment market may still be sluggish, the market for software that helps companies with their employees is bustling. We recently noted that both the number of deals and spending in the human capital management (HCM) market so far this year is rivaling the records set when the overall M&A market was much healthier. Add to that, there’s even an HCM vendor that’s eyeing the other exit: Cornerstone OnDemand filed to go public two weeks ago, one of the few tech companies that’s willing to brave the chilly IPO market.

As to what’s the next likely deal in the HCM market, recent indications have pointed toward a sale of GeoLearning. (We understand that the Des Moines, Iowa-based company has retained Raymond James & Associates to advise it on a process.) Founded in 1997 by current CEO Frank Russell, GeoLearning sells its learning management software (LMS) through both a hosted and on-demand model to more than 700 customers. In February 2008, GeoLearning took in its first and only institutional money – a $31m investment from Volition Capital, which was known as Fidelity Ventures at the time.

A little more than a month ago, fellow LMS startup got snapped up by Taleo for $125m. Sources have indicated that ADP may have been the initial bidder for, looking to add to the half-dozen HCM acquisitions the services giant has already done. We would expect ADP to at least look closely at GeoLearning. But from our perspective, the more likely acquirer for GeoLearning is SuccessFactors. The two companies have had an integrated offering on the market for more than four years, and continue as close partners. We gather that GeoLearning is slightly larger than, which was running at about $30m in sales.

HCM deal flow nears high-water mark

Contact: Brenon Daly

Dealmaking in the human capital management (HCM) market has surged in recent months, pushing spending to near-record levels. So far this year, we’ve tallied 36 HCM transactions, with an aggregate value of $1.9bn. That basically matches the high-water mark of $2.1bn in the sector set during the first three quarters of 2007. (However, we should note that nearly all of the HCM spending three years ago came from the $1.8bn take-private of Kronos by Hellman & Friedman in March 2007.)

The number of HCM transactions so far this year (36) matches exactly the number during the same period in 2007. Another similarity between the two years is that strategic and financial buyers have both been active in the sector. Consider this: In the four deals announced so far this month, buyout shops have been behind two while corporate buyers have inked the other two. Valuations for this month’s transactions – and most other recent HCM deals, for that matter – have ranged from just below 2 times trailing sales to around 4x trailing sales.

However, in the sector’s latest acquisition, the valuation came in well north of that range. On Monday, private equity firm Madison Dearborn Partners (MDP) took a majority stake of Fieldglass in a transaction that valued the HCM vendor at more than $220m. (ArchPoint Partners advised Fieldglass in the deal between the two Chicago-based firms.) Fieldglass focuses on the so-called contingent market, which covers project-based contractors, offshore workers and so on. According to our understanding, Fieldglass generated nearly $30m in revenue and $5m in EBITDA in 2009 and was tracking to nearly $40m in sales and $10m in EBITDA for this year. That means MDP’s stake valued the company overall at about 6x trailing sales, according to our calculations.

Wall Street job pays off for

Contact: Brenon Daly

Strictly from the view of the corporate treasurer’s office, got paid while on Wall Street. The compensation management vendor went public at a valuation that – in rather short order – would never again be available to the company. The outsized chunk of money that it raised in its early 2007 IPO, which came right before the window for new offerings slammed shut, has helped fund its money-burning operations since then.

In its mid-February 2007 IPO, sold 5.7 million shares at $10.50 each. Of that amount, 4.9 million came from the company, meaning it raised some $51m. (That relatively fat offering came despite the company only recording $23m in revenue in the year leading up to its IPO.) In the year after the debut, the stock basically traded at or slightly above the offer price. But in early February 2008, it broke issue and would never again change hands in the double digits. Kenexa bid $4.09 for each share of

The fact that is getting taken off the Nasdaq at less than half the price that it came on the exchange underscores just how much Wall Street has backed away from risk. And, unfortunately for – a tiny company that’s put up only red numbers – that has meant investors backing away from it. To get a sense of just how small is, consider this fact: each year, the company generates about $40m in sales, roughly the amount that its acquirer, Kenexa, generates each quarter. And we can’t overlook the fact that its unprofitable operations had burned down its stash of cash to about $8m, compared to more than $20m last year.

So all things considered, the planned sale of is not such a bad outcome for the vendor. It gets valued at about 1.6 times trailing sales, roughly matching the multiple in some other recent human capital management (HCM) deals. (For instance, we understand that ADP paid about $110m for Workscape earlier this summer, a transaction that valued the HCM vendor at about 1.8x trailing sales.) In any case, if hadn’t gotten a Wall Street windfall in the form of an IPO, we’re fairly certain that the company would have had a much rougher go of it during the Credit Crisis, and probably wouldn’t even have fetched the $80m that it got in its sale to Kenexa, or any other buyer. All dressed up and nowhere to go

Contact: Brenon Daly, China Martens

We noted late last week that it has emerged recently that did indeed make an (unannounced) acquisition to help bolster its upcoming enterprise collaboration product, Chatter. The purchase of GroupSwim, which had just 30 customers, was undoubtedly a tiny one. That’s been the case in the five previous buys by, as well.

But now, the market is buzzing that may be looking to take on a larger deal. Why else would a profitable company that already has $1bn on its hands raise another $500m in an upcoming convertible offering? If that sort of reasoning worked for Occam, then it’ll work for us. All that remains, then, is to figure out where is going to spend that money.

It turns out that coming up with a shopping list for is actually a bit more complicated than it is for many other companies. For starters, the firm positions itself as a platform vendor, which means that it is designed to be open and inclusive. That is exactly counter to M&A. So while it might make sense for to move into marketing automation (MA), for instance, by picking up Unica or Constant Contact Inc, a play like that would immediately alienate all other MA providers on AppExchange. (Currently, there are 29 different MA applications listed on AppExchange, among more than 170 applications in the broader ‘marketing’ category.) has worked around that by looking more to partner than purchase, as it did to co-create, a partnership with Unit 4 Agresso. Clearly, could afford to buy Unit 4 Agresso outright. (The Dutch company has a market capitalization of about $650m.) We suspect that partnerships might be the approach that uses to cover human capital management (HCM). A number of rumors have tied the CRM giant to either of the big HCM players, Taleo or SuccessFactors. (As an aside, we might be willing to pay money to listen to any M&A negotiations between’s laidback, New Age-y chief executive Marc Benioff and the blunt-talking, hard-driving CEO at SuccessFactors, Lars Dalgaard. We can only imagine the look on Dalgaard’s face if Benioff invited him to sit zazen, which wouldn’t be out of character for the honcho.)

So having scratched most names, what’s one company that we could imagine reaching for? InContact. The acquisition would boost’s Service Cloud, taking the firm even deeper into the call center. The (hypothetical) deal would fit nicely with InStranet, which acquired in mid-2008 for $31.5m, and would hardly break the bank. InContact has a market capitalization of merely $90m. And as a final bonus, would finally be able to shed its limited ticker ‘CRM’ in favor of the bigger, more encompassing ticker of ‘SAAS,’ which is what inContact currently trades under.