Callidus learns to love Litmos

Contact: Brenon Daly

Continuing to broaden its portfolio beyond its core commission-calculation offering, Callidus Software recently reached across the Pacific Ocean to snag early-stage learning management system (LMS) vendor Litmos. Based in New Zealand, Litmos had yet to raise any outside capital but had nonetheless drawn in more than 150 customers, which likely put revenue in the mid-single digits of millions of dollars. The acquisition should help Callidus in two main areas: in-application training and mobile learning.

In that way, Callidus’ move is unlike many of the other noteworthy deals over the past year in the LMS market, which has been dominated by talent management providers buying their way into the training and education space. Last September, for instance, Taleo picked up longtime partner for $125m, while in April rival SuccessFactors paid $290m for Plateau Systems. Over the past year, we’ve tallied more than $1.8bn worth of spending on LMS deals.

Undoubtedly, the acquisition of Litmos won’t add much to the total spending in the sector. But the transaction is nonetheless significant for Callidus, particularly as more and more sales activity is done in the field. (Litmos can be used not only to update sales records and provide onsite sales coaching, but also to give training courses.) And Callidus may not be done buying. The company recently netted about $60m through a convertible offering, and we understand that it may well put some of those proceeds to work on another purchase in the next month or so

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.

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.