Microsoft marketing tries to take flight with MarketingPilot

Contact: Ben Kolada

Microsoft’s nascent marketing business got a small boost on Wednesday when the company announced the acquisition of marketing automation veteran MarketingPilot Software for an undisclosed sum. Although we’ve been expecting Microsoft to make a marketing buy to add to its CRM business, we anticipated something more significant.

Few details were provided on the rationale for the deal, other than it seems that MarketingPilot will be slotted into Microsoft’s Dynamics CRM business. We think that Microsoft could be proactively adding traditional marketing automation to its CRM suite to better compete with’s feature set, which is strong in social marketing but weak in lead generation.

The transaction is an interesting competitive move, since most of Microsoft’s CRM rivals have focused on social media marketing M&A. However, buying a dated and presumably small company likely won’t considerably alter the competitive landscape for marketing software.

No terms were released on the acquisition, but given MarketingPilot’s size and age, and the language used in the press release (PR), we doubt that the price was substantial. MarketingPilot was founded in 2001 and has 30 employees (who have all joined Microsoft). Further, pure-SaaS companies are receiving the highest valuations nowadays, but in the PR announcing the deal, Microsoft notes that MarketingPilot’s software is available both in the cloud and on-premises.

The transaction is only Microsoft’s second inorganic foray into marketing and advertising software, after its 2008 purchase of Navic Networks for a price reportedly in the range of $200-300m.

Separately, Microsoft will report fiscal year 2013 first-quarter earnings after the closing bell today. Analysts are expecting the company to report revenue of $16.4bn (a nearly 6% drop from the year-ago quarter).

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

Google’s admission of failure?

Contact: Ben Kolada

Google has finally found a way to monetize Facebook’s platform. After failing to acquire Facebook when it had the chance several years ago, and now with its own attempts at social networking a bit spotty, official word came on Tuesday that Google is acquiring social marketing startup Wildfire Interactive. Google is reportedly paying $250m for Wildfire, a respectable price tag that likely values the target at 7-10x revenue.

Google’s own ‘Insights for Search’ search analysis engine shows interest in Orkut, its attempt at a social network that found most of its popularity outside the US, and its Google+ social network trending downward over the past 12 months. Meanwhile, interest in Facebook has remained remarkably high.

In acquiring Wildfire, Google is recognizing its social shortcomings, and not a moment too soon. There has been rapid consolidation of social marketing startups in just the past three months.

Sector stalwarts Vitrue and Buddy Media have already been acquired by Oracle and, respectively, leaving only a few hot startups left. Beyond Wildfire, we’d point to GraphEffect, Hearsay Social, Syncapse and Lithium Technologies as the next to go. And there will likely be bidding competition for these firms. Large CRM vendors SAP and Microsoft could make a play here, as well as Teradata, which could buy into social to build on top of its recent purchases of marketing specialists Aprimo and eCircle.

Recent select M&A in social marketing

Date announced Acquirer Target Deal value
July 31, 2012 Google Wildfire Interactive Not disclosed
July 10, 2012 Oracle Involver Not disclosed
June 4, 2012 Buddy Media $689m
May 23, 2012 Oracle Vitrue $325m*
April 18, 2012 Marketo Crowd Factory Not disclosed

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

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @MAKnowledgebase.

Deep-pocketed acquirers could bid up capacity-planning valuations

Contact: Ben Kolada

In a recent report, my colleague Rachel Chalmers discusses opportunities for some of the largest IT firms to fill holes in infrastructure management capacity planning through M&A. However, if bidding increases for the remaining startups in this sector, valuations could rise above the current estimated $100m record set by VMware’s Integrien acquisition.

Capacity planning is similar to performance monitoring. However, monitoring can only tell you what happened in the past, or at best, what’s happening now. Capacity planning requires you to have some idea of what will happen in the future. We’ve seen some dealmaking in this sector already, with each of the primary precedent transactions being valued well above the market average. However, many of the remaining potential acquirers have very deep pockets and intense bidding by this group for the decreasing pool of available targets could elevate valuations. Chalmers’ report cites Oracle, HP, IBM and Microsoft as still missing some capacity-planning capabilities – these four firms have a combined $100bn in cash and cash equivalents in their war chests. Click here for the full report, which includes current market valuations and details some of the most likely acquisition candidates.

ViVu bolsters Polycom’s Web-based videoconferencing credentials

Contact: Thejeswi Venkatesh

After sitting out of the market for four years, Polycom’s M&A wheels are turning once again. The acquisition of ViVu on Monday was the company’s third purchase this year, and helps Polycom round out its videoconferencing offerings. With many observers expecting video collaboration to become ubiquitous, the purchase helps Polycom extend its offerings into the Web videoconferencing arena – in-line with its declared strategy.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but we understand that ViVu was generating less than $2m in revenue. Cupertino, California-based ViVu, which came to market in 2010, had raised just $3.2m in venture funding and was looking to score a second round at the time of its acquisition. (Other companies in the space, including Vidyo and Blue Jeans Networks, have been successful at landing substantial amounts of funding.) Given these dynamics, we suspect that ViVu received a healthy multiple and we wouldn’t be surprised if other suitors, including TIBCO Software, were involved in the bidding process.

The transaction comes at a time of dramatic changes in the videoconferencing market. Microsoft closed its pickup of Skype – the largest-ever purchase for the tech giant – just last Friday. ViVu provides a plug-in for Skype and Polycom has worked with Microsoft on its Lync offering for a number of years. Polycom believes that the two deals will expand its market opportunities.

Select Polycom acquisitions

Date announced Target Deal value Focus
October 17, 2011 ViVu Not disclosed Web-based videoconferencing capabilities
June 1, 2011 HP (visual collaboration business) $89m Videoconferencing
March 23, 2011 Accordent Technologies $50m Non-real-time capabilities
February 7, 2007 SpectraLink $220m Wireless IP telephony

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase

Microsoft pays a princely premium for Skype

Contact: Ben Kolada

In its largest-ever deal, Microsoft announced today that it is buying VoIP provider Skype for $8.5 billion in cash. This is the third time Skype has changed hands since 2005. Microsoft claims that the deal is yet another move in its long line of real-time communications initiatives, but we suspect that the true intent, and more so the price, was driven by a desire to keep the hot property out of the hands of search rival Google, which is expanding its own communications prowess.

That Skype attracted Microsoft should come as no surprise, since the company has consistently garnered more than its fair share of attention in its eight-year history. Since its founding in 2003, Skype has been acquired by eBay, sold to a consortium of private equity investors led by Silver Lake Partners, filed for an IPO, rumored to have been a target by Facebook and Google and is now being scooped up by Microsoft. Its three trade sales combined have totaled more than $13bn in deal flow.

Indeed, Facebook and Google’s rumored involvement in the bidding process would certainly have contributed to the stellar valuation. Consider this: on an equity value basis, Microsoft is paying nearly twice as much as Skype received in its previous two trade sales combined. When factoring in the assumption of cash and debt, the offer values Skype at nearly 11 times its 2010 revenue, and 34x last year’s adjusted EBITDA. And while the price paid represents a fraction of the $50bn in cash and short-term investments Microsoft held at the end of March, it should be high enough to prevent a competing offer from Google alone. A topping bid from Big G would most likely exceed $9bn – or one-quarter of the total cash and short-term investments the search giant held at the end of March.

Skype’s suitors

Date announced Acquirer Deal value
May 10, 2011 Microsoft $8.5bn
September 1, 2009 Silver Lake Partners/Index Ventures/Andreessen Horowitz/Canada Pension Plan (CPP) Investment Board $2.03bn
September 12, 2005 eBay $2.57bn

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase

An extended cold snap in the M&A market

Contact: Brenon Daly

The tech M&A spending slump continued into February. For the sixth straight month, the aggregate value of deals came in at only about $10bn. (Specifically, we tallied 256 deals in February, worth just $9.7bn – the lowest monthly spending total in a year.) The rather anemic recent spending comes after a flurry of dealmaking last summer had many observers speculating about a return to a more robust M&A environment.

Instead, recent monthly spending has flat-lined at just half the level it was last summer. Another way to look at the activity: The total value of deals so far this year (January and February combined for $20.6bn in spending) is only equal to the single-month totals from April to August last year.

One reason why 2011 has gotten off to such a slow start is that many big-name tech buyers haven’t been in the market. Among the companies that have yet to open their M&A account this year: Microsoft, Symantec, Oracle, IBM, EMC, BMC and others.

Searching for identity, Quest picks up e-DMZ

Contact: Steve Coplan

Quest Software has announced the acquisition of e-DMZ Security, an independent and self-funded player in the growing privileged identity management (PIM) market, for an undisclosed sum. The PIM market originally coalesced around compliance requirements for enforcing the separation of duties for administrators and logging their access to sensitive systems, but security and governance concerns have added further impetus. While certainly attractive given its discrete focus and capital structure, e-DMZ also appealed to Quest on the basis of its proxy-based architecture (and a new set of capabilities to constrain the sudo command environment). (Click here for our full report on the transaction.)

This is Quest’s second acquisition in the identity management market (broadly defined), following the purchase of Völcker Informatik last July. That deal marked a sea change in Quest’s identity management strategy – and signaled that M&A would play a key role in that strategy. Quest’s identity management portfolio has held the most appeal for IT administrators relying on Microsoft Active Directory (AD) to manage users, a constituency that Quest describes as ‘AD-centric.’ The Völcker buy showed that Quest is looking to migrate from serving this well-defined customer set with an array of operational tools to addressing more fundamental enterprise-level requirements for provisioning, entitlement management, auditing and compliance based on a service-oriented architecture.

PIM was already a category on the M&A radar before Quest’s purchase of e-DMZ. However, the deal does remove one potential acquirer from the list for the remaining vendors in the market, including Cyber-Ark Software, Lieberman Software, Cloakware (a division of Irdeto, which itself is a subsidiary of media conglomerate Naspers), BeyondTrust and potentially Xceedium and FoxT technologies. On the other hand, the transaction will likely reinforce the rationale for an acquisition that is already in motion.

Winners and losers in data warehousing

Contact: Ben Kolada

Just a month after Greenplum was swallowed by EMC for an estimated $400m, fellow data-warehousing startup Kickfire was sold for probably one one-hundreth of that amount to Teradata. Why did the two data-warehousing vendors – both venture-backed, Silicon Valley startups targeting the same market – see divergent outcomes? The answer to that multimillion-dollar question lies in each company’s targeted markets.

The scrap sale of Kickfire was the end result of a misguided approach by the Santa Clara, California-based startup to the low end of the data-warehousing market. Basically, Kickfire was trying to sell appliances through an expensive direct-sale model. However, the economics of a high-cost business model for a low-cost product only work on big sales. Kickfire never got anywhere close to that, collecting only about a dozen customers in its four years of business. (We would contrast Kickfire’s business model with that of its closest competitor, Infobright. That company, which sells a software-only product through an indirect channel, has more than doubled the number of customers over the past year to 120.)

As Kickfire was struggling to sell to small businesses, 30 miles up the road in San Mateo, California, Greenplum was ripening nicely by selling to enterprises. The company’s high-revenue customer accounts helped it quickly grow total sales to just shy of $30m at the time of its sale to EMC. (That works out to an eye-popping valuation of 14 times trailing sales – a multiple that’s twice as high as any valuation the data-warehousing sector has seen in major acquisitions.) Part of the reason it garnered such a high price is that Greenplum counted some 140 customers at the time of its sale.

Other data-warehousing vendors have also experienced the highs of the enterprise market. Netezza and Teradata both made it to the public markets. (Although we heard a rumor that Netezza was almost erased from the market. Word is that EMC first talked to Netezza, even floating a bid earlier this year that basically would have valued Netezza at its current price on the NYSE. Needless to say, talks didn’t go too far between the two Boston-area companies.) And of course, DATAllegro was scooped up by Microsoft for an estimated 7x trailing sales.

With all of this consolidation playing out, we expect that much of the attention in the data-warehousing space is now turning to Aster Data Systems. The fast-growing vendor, which is based in San Carlos, California, has raised $27m in venture backing. If Aster Data gets snapped up in a trade sale (like many of its rivals have), we wouldn’t be surprised to see Dell as the buyer. The two companies are currently partners, and Dell has shown an increasing interest in big data following its continued attempts to buy 3PAR.

Is mobile advertising back?

-Contact Thomas Rasmussen

In a clear sign that mobile advertising has grown up, Google spent a whopping $750m in stock on Monday to pick up San Mateo, California-based AdMob in what we hear was a contested process. This transaction goes a long way toward securing control of mobile display advertising for Google and comes just days after the launch of Android 2.0. Although we’ve been projecting dealmaking in the mobile advertising market for quite some time, we’re nonetheless floored by the rich valuation for AdMob, a three-year-old startup that’s raised just shy of $50m. We estimate that the 140-person firm pulled in about $20m in gross revenue in 2008 and was on track to double that figure this year (we surmise that this translates to roughly $20m on a net revenue basis).

The double-digit valuation for AdMob reminds us more than a little bit of the high-multiple online advertising deals that we saw in 2007. Viewed in that context, Google’s purchase of AdMob stands as the third-largest ‘new media’ advertising purchase since 2002. Of course, like many of those transactions, this was not based on revenue, but instead on technology and market extension, which is consistent with Google’s strategy of acquiring big into core adjacencies.

Looking forward, AdMob’s top-dollar exit is sure to have a number of rival mobile advertising startups excited. One competitor that’s preparing to raise an additional sizable round of funding quipped at the near-perfect timing of this transaction. This is an industry that has seen its ups and downs over the past few years. When we first wrote about AdMob back in May it was in the backdrop of fire sales and failed rounds of funding. If nothing else, this deal will dramatically change that.

Microsoft has been actively playing catch-up to Google in advertising and search, and is sure to follow it onto the mobile device. As are many other niche advertising shoppers such as Yahoo, Nokia, AdKnowledge, Adobe-Omniture and traditional media conglomerates such as Cox. AOL has already made its move, reaching for Third Screen Media two years ago. (We would note that AOL’s $105m purchase of Third Screen is a rare case of that company actually being ahead of the market.)

Startups that could benefit from this increasing focus on the sector include AdMarvel, Amobee, InMobi, and Velti’s Ad Infuse. However, we suspect that some of the major advances – and consequently the most promising targets – are likely to come from players that are just now getting started, with fresh and profitable approaches to location-based mobile advertising.

Some recent mobile advertising deals

Date announced Acquirer Target Deal value Target TTM revenue
November 9, 2009 Google AdMob $750m $20m*
September 14, 2009 Nokia Acuity Mobile Not disclosed Not disclosed
August 27, 2009 AdMob AdWhirl Not disclosed Not disclosed
May 21, 2009 Limelight Networks Kiptronic $1m $2m*
May 12, 2009 Velti Ad Infuse <$1m* $1.3m*
March 11, 2008 Qualcomm Xiam Technologies $32m Not disclosed
August 21, 2007 Yahoo Actionality Not disclosed Not disclosed
May 15, 2007 AOL Third Screen Media $105m $3m*

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

Is IAC looking to sell

-Contact Thomas Rasmussen

It looks like acquisitive IAC/InterActiveCorp could be gearing up to undo its largest buy ever, At least Barry Diller’s opening remarks during IAC’s conference call last week seem to indicate a desire to explore the possibility. The New York City-based Internet media company has successfully expanded into a content giant by snapping up dozens of Internet properties. IAC has inked 36 deals worth more than $4.5bn since 2002. Many of those purchases have been tiny (, for instance), but IAC did make a significant pickup when it handed over $1.85bn for in March 2005.

However, we suspect that hasn’t delivered the kind of returns that IAC had hoped for, since the search engine remains far behind Yahoo, Microsoft and Google in terms of usage. Still, with roughly 4% of US search market share, would be a significant addition to any acquirer in the competitive scale-driven space, where every percentage point counts.

Though we won’t rule out a financial buyout, which would have more than a few echoes of the just-closed Skype carve-out, we think a strategic buyer for makes more sense. Two obvious suitors spring to mind: Google and Microsoft. Although Google recently made its intentions for more acquisitions known and even signaled a willingness to do large deals again, we do not think it is likely to pick up Rather than make a consolidation play, we expect Google to continue to snare startups to offer additional services to existing users, while also bolstering its recent moves into new markets such as online video and mobile communications.

On the other hand, Microsoft has displayed a willingness to spend a lot of money in its game of catch-up with Google. With an acquisition of coupled with its impending Yahoo deal, Microsoft could come very close to capturing one-third of all search traffic. While that would undoubtedly help Microsoft, a divestiture of could also benefit IAC. Granted, it would mean slicing its revenue roughly in half, but IAC would have a cleaner story to tell Wall Street. And it could use some help in that area. Investors give a paltry valuation to the cash-heavy company, valuing the business at less than one times sales on the basis of enterprise value. IAC sports a $2.6bn market capitalization, but holds $1.8bn in cash.

IAC’s historic acquisitions and divestitures, 2002 – present

Year Number of acquisitions Number of divestitures
2009 5 4
2008 7 0
2007 6 0
2006 3 0
2005 3 0
2004 4 0
2003 4 0
2002 4 0

Source: The 451 M&A KnowledgeBase