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.

Big money, behind closed doors

Contact: Brenon Daly

Who needs to go public when there’s so much late-stage money sloshing around out there? That question hit us in the head this week after two startups announced, separately, that they were each raising $50m in new funding. First, it was marketing automation vendor Marketo saying it pulled in $50m in a new round led by Battery Ventures and then on Thursday, vulnerability management company Rapid7 also drew in that amount from Technology Crossover Ventures.

The latest round for Marketo, which effectively doubles the amount of capital it has raised, is particularly noteworthy. After all, Marketo has seen two of its main rivals track to the public market. Eloqua is currently on file for a $100m offering, while Responsys went public in late April, an offering that raised $79m.

In the case of Responsys, it may well consider itself fortunate that it raised money when it did. The company recently indicated that business through the end of the year is likely to be substantially slower than it had been. The warning knocked the stock about 25% below where it priced in April and half the level it had hit in the summer.

SaaS giant thinks small

Contact: Brenon Daly

Just several months after putting money into Assistly in its second round of funding, decided Wednesday to pick up the whole startup for $50m. The purchase should help the SaaS giant extend its customer service offering, Service Cloud, to small businesses. Founded in 2009, Assistly had drawn in more than 1,000 customers, although not all of those are paying. ( declined to give a breakdown on paying vs. nonpaying customers, but indicated revenue at the startup was a tiny amount.)

The acquisition marks the third time has stepped into the M&A market to bolster its customer service product. Three years ago, it reached for InstraNet, a startup that was led by Alex Dayton, who continues in an executive role for the customer service offering at A year ago, quietly added Activa Live. (Although terms weren’t disclosed, we suspect the bill for that purchase probably only ran in the single digits of millions of dollars.) The net result of those acquisitions – along with healthy organic growth – is that Service Cloud is now the largest single product outside’s core sales force automation product.

Additionally, says Assistly will be part of its upcoming launch of a ‘small business cloud’ product. In that, Assistly will be joining the collaboration offering that picked up with its acquisition of SMB-focused startup Manymoon in February. The reason for the new downmarket products is pretty clear when you remember that gets roughly one-third of its overall revenue from small businesses.

Imperva impervious to consolidation

Contact: Brenon Daly

The next exit for a database security vendor appears likely to be an IPO. Word is Imperva has picked Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank Securities to lead its offering, with a prospectus likely to be filed in the next few weeks. The Redwood City, California-based company is thought to be running at roughly $60m in revenue.

If Imperva does indeed go public, the IPO would cap a run of a half-dozen deals in a sector that has seen purchases by some of the biggest technology providers on the planet. Among the companies that have bought their way into the database security market over the past two years are Oracle, IBM and McAfee. That’s not to say those big players have been paying big prices.

With the exception of Guardium’s sale in November 2009 to IBM, which we valued at $232m, the other transactions have been modest ones. And the most recent deal has been less than modest: BeyondTrust likely paid only a few million dollars for Lumigent last week. In fact, as we tally the aggregate value of all M&A in the database-monitoring space, we suspect that the total bill will be less than the value Imperva creates in its IPO.

Looking past the losses at Carbonite

Contact: Brenon Daly

Is Wall Street ready to buy into a company that spends $1 on advertising to bring in just $2 in bookings? That’s one of the key questions around Carbonite, a fast-growing online backup vendor that just filed for its IPO. (We looked at Carbonite’s planned offering in an in-depth report, including projecting its likely valuation when it does hit the Nasdaq later this year.) Carbonite has more than doubled revenue in each of the past two years. And while that is an eye-popping growth rate, it has been fueled by an equally eye-popping spending on advertising.

Consider this: Carbonite shelled out $24m on advertising last year on its way to recording $54m in bookings. (For those of you who like old-fashioned, by-the-book accounting, the $54m in bookings in 2010 equaled a scant $39m in actual revenue for the six-year-old startup.) And to be clear, that $24m was straight advertising spending, which is just a portion of the $33m in sales and marketing spending that it rang up last year. Obviously, that’s not a sustainable ratio, at least not for a technology company that also needs to spend a few million dollars on servers and other equipment each quarter and hopes to run profitably. (For its part, Carbonite hasn’t posted anything close to black numbers.)

That’s not to say that Carbonite won’t be a hit with investors when it does go public. Bulls can point to the fact that the service has attracted more than one million paying users, and those that use it tend to stick with it. (Carbonite puts its retention rate at 97%.) And on the buyside of the IPO, Wall Street has been willing to look past red-stained income statements if the growth rates are high enough. As evidence, we might point to the mid-March offering of Cornerstone OnDemand, a company that has a similar financial profile to Carbonite, though it competes in a vastly different market. After pricing its offering above range and soaring onto the market, Cornerstone currently trades at about 18 times trailing revenue

Demandware to test demand in public market?

Contact: Brenon Daly

After a pair of billion-dollar deals over the past half-year removed two old-line e-commerce vendors from the Nasdaq, an on-demand startup is rumored to be looking to replenish the ranks on the public market. Several sources have indicated that Demandware has picked underwriters and is set to file its IPO paperwork shortly, with Goldman Sachs & Co and Deutsche Bank Securities running the books. The filing, if it comes, would continue a trend of offerings by relatively small subscription-based companies. Demandware is expected to do about $40m in revenue in 2011.

Founded in 2004 and based near Boston, the company provides an e-commerce platform for more than 150 customers, including Barneys New York and The Jones Group. Demandware’s investors include local VC firms General Catalyst Partners and North Bridge Venture Partners.

The IPO for Demandware would come at a time of consolidation in the e-commerce industry, with big buyers paying big prices. Late last year, Oracle acquired Art Technology Group for $1bn, paying the highest price that ATG shares had seen since 2001. (ATG, which was founded in 1991, counted more than 1,000 customers.) And then earlier this year, eBay handed over $2.4bn for GSI Commerce. That stands as the largest Internet transaction since February 2008.

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

3Leaf ends up at Huawei – but will it be staying there?

Contact: John Abbott

Six months ago, I/O virtualization startup 3Leaf Systems disappeared from our radar screens. A little digging around more recently revealed that key staff members had scattered. VP of marketing Shahin Kahn was now at ORION Marketing Group, a consulting firm, with other ex-Sun Microsystems colleagues. CEO B.V. Jagadeesh had turned up as CEO of Virtela Technology Services, a managed network, security and technology services company. In his company biography he revealed that 3Leaf had been sold in a ‘private transaction.’ The trail of clues led on to Bob Quinn, founder and CTO of 3Leaf, who could be traced (via his LinkedIn profile) to Chinese telecom equipment maker Huawei Technologies, where he was now acting as a consultant. We surmised, and later received confirmation, that Huawei was the new owner of 3Leaf’s technology.

Two weeks ago, Huawei submitted an application to CFIUS – the US government’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States – including its first public statement that it had acquired 3Leaf in May. No details emerged other than that only the intellectual property and 15 of the 50 employees had been obtained in a transaction worth around $2m. According to CFIUS, Huawei should have requested permission from the committee. Huawei said it regarded the deal as a patent sale and hiring exercise and so believed it didn’t need to clear it with CFIUS. In 2008, the company abandoned its bid for 3Com due to US security terms. Hewlett-Packard stepped in to acquire 3Com a year later. More recently, Huawei has faced opposition to a proposed equipment-supply partnership in the US with Sprint Nextel over security concerns.

Aside from all this, the deal is a sorry – and somewhat worrying – end for 3Leaf, which raised roughly $67m from VCs Alloy Ventures, Enterprise Partners Venture Capital and Storm Ventures, as well as money from strategic investors Intel and LSI. 3Leaf was working on what should be a hot sector, I/O virtualization, but perhaps it entered the market too early. Its first product, the V-8000, first shipped in May 2007, but used a somewhat proprietary approach due to the lack of standards at the time. The company effectively started all over again in 2009 with plans to build new technology for virtualizing CPU and memory resources across x86 server clusters. It was looking for deals from OEMs, although there were also plans to sell prepackaged versions based on SuperMicro servers. However, 3Leaf needed more money to fund the ongoing research, and those efforts appear to have been unsuccessful.

3Leaf looked promising when it was founded, but early technology decisions led it down a blind alley. There may be some value in its patents and certainly more in the experience of its engineers, but it seems unlikely that, if CFIUS forces Huawei to sell the assets it’s bought, there will be many takers. If one is found, it’s likely to be a major server vendor with networking pretensions such as HP or IBM, or an I/O and networking adapter specialist such as Emulex or QLogic. Meanwhile, other startups in closely related areas – including ScaleMP, NextIO, Numascale, RNA Networks, VirtenSys and Xsigo Systems – soldier on.

Exits lead up and down for General Catalyst

Contact: Brenon Daly

Talk about a mixed pair of exits. Venture firm General Catalyst Partners is faced with an unusual situation of the sale of one portfolio company almost undoubtedly slashing the valuation of another portfolio company that just filed for an IPO. The trade sale could even derail the offering, although that’s probably not likely.

The specifics: Boston-based General Catalyst (and more specifically, partner Joel Cutler) has backed both ITA Software, a maker of flight search tools, and, an online travel site. In July, ITA agreed to a $700m sale to Google (although the close of the deal has been hung up by concerns over the search giant potentially having too much influence in the flight search market). And then just this week, put in its paperwork to go public. General Catalyst is the single largest owner of, holding about 30% of the equity.

The rub in the two exits comes because relies heavily on ITA for sending business its way. (According to the prospectus, ITA has accounted for 42% of airfare query results so far this year.) Of course, Google would have every reason not to continue to send that search traffic to if the ITA purchase goes through. So for General Catalyst, it would be nice to pocket the proceeds from a $700m sale of ITA, but probably not if it comes at the cost of’s valuation.

Small purchases add up big for IBM

Contact: Brenon Daly

Shortly after IBM bagged Netezza, we noted that Big Blue had been doing some big-game hunting in recent deals. It turns out that’s also true when it takes aim at private companies. In fact, we estimate IBM has spent more on startups than it has on the public companies it has taken home over the past year.

First, we should qualify a bit of our math. In the past 12 months, Big Blue has announced 17 acquisitions. Included in that flurry of dealmaking is the purchase of a pair of public companies (Unica and Netezza), the pickup of a billion-dollar carve-out (the Sterling Commerce business from AT&T) and the acquisition of 14 privately held companies. IBM has not disclosed a single price for any of the more than dozen private companies it has snared since last October, even though some of them are costing the company – that is to say, its shareholders – several hundred million dollars a pop.

Nonetheless, we have estimates of the price tags of nine of the 14 deals. (These estimates have all been corroborated by at least two sources familiar with the transactions.) According to our estimates, more than half of the acquisitions (five of nine) cost IBM more than $200m each. Altogether, we estimate the nine deals set Big Blue back $2bn. That incomplete bill for the private company purchases is only slightly less than the $2.3bn that IBM disclosed it is spending on Unica and Netezza.