Another ‘down round’ IPO?

Contact: Brenon Daly

Another unicorn is set to gallop onto Wall Street, as MongoDB has put in its IPO paperwork. The open source NoSQL database provider plans to raise $100m in the offering, on top of the $311m it drew in from private-market investors over the past decade. As has been the case in other recent tech offerings, however, some of those later investors in MongoDB may well find that the IPO represents a ‘down round’ of funding.

Any discount for MongoDB likely won’t be as steep as the discount Wall Street put on the previous data platform provider to come public, Cloudera. Investors currently value the Hadoop pioneer at $2.2bn, slightly more than half its peak valuation as a private company. For its part, MongoDB, which last sold stock at $16.72, has more than 100 million shares outstanding, giving it a valuation of roughly $1.7bn.

While not directly comparable, Cloudera and MongoDB do share some traits that lend themselves to comparison. Both companies have their roots in open source software, and wrap some services around their licenses. (That said, MongoDB has gross margins more in line with a true software vendor than Cloudera. So far this year, it has been running at 71% gross margins, compared with just 46% for Cloudera.) Further, both companies are growing at about 50%, even though Cloudera is more than twice the size of MongoDB.

Assuming Wall Street looks at Cloudera for some direction on valuing MongoDB, shares of the NoSQL database provider appear set to hit the public market marked down from the private market. Cloudera is valued at slightly more than six times its projected revenue of $360m for the current fiscal year. Putting that multiple on the projected revenue of roughly $150m for MongoDB in its current fiscal year would pencil out to a market cap of about $920m. Given its cleaner business model and less red ink, MongoDB probably deserves a premium to Cloudera. While MongoDB certainly may top the $1bn valuation on its debut, reclaiming the previous peak price seems a bit out of reach.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @451TechMnA.

A private equity play in the public market

Contact: Brenon Daly

In a roundabout way, private equity’s influence on the technology landscape has also spilled over to Wall Street. So far this year, one of the highest-returning tech stocks is Upland Software, a software vendor that has borrowed a page directly out of the buyout playbook. Shares of Upland – a rollup that has done a half-dozen acquisitions since the start of last year – have soared an astounding 150% already in 2017.

Investors haven’t always been bullish on Upland. Following the Austin, Texas-based company’s small-cap IPO in late 2014, shares broke issue and spent all of 2015 and 2016 in the single digits. For the past four months, however, shares have changed hands above $20 each.

Upland’s rise on Wall Street this year essentially parallels the recent rise of financial acquirers in the broader tech market – 2017 marks the first year in history that PE firms will announce more tech transactions than US public companies. As recently as 2014, companies listed on the Nasdaq and NYSE announced twice as many tech deals as their rival PE shops. (For more on the stunning reversal between the two buying groups, which has swung billions of dollars on spending between them, see part 1 and part 2 of our special report on PE and tech M&A.)

Although Upland is clearly a strategic acquirer in both its origins and its strategy, it is probably more accurately viewed as a publicly traded PE-style consolidator. The company has its roots in ESW Capital, a longtime software buyer known for its platforms such as Versata, GFI and, most recently, Jive Software. Upland was formed in 2012 and, according to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase, has inked 15 acquisitions to support its three main businesses: project management, workflow automation and digital engagement.

Selling into those relatively well-established IT markets means that Upland, which is on pace to put up about $100m in revenue in 2017, bumps into some of the largest software providers, notably Microsoft and Oracle. To help it compete with those giants, Upland has gone after small companies, with purchase sizes ranging from $6-26m.

However, the company has given itself much more currency to go out shopping. Early this summer – with its stock riding high – it raised $43m in a secondary sale, along with setting up a $200m credit facility. Given Upland’s focus on quickly integrating its targets, it’s unlikely that it would look to consolidate a sprawling software vendor. But it certainly has the financial means to maintain or even accelerate its rollup of small pieces of the very fragmented enterprise software market.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @451TechMnA.

NetApp taps Greenqloud for hybrid storage push

Contact: Scott Denne

NetApp’s reach for Greenqloud marks its third deal of 2017 as the storage vendor climbs its way out of a rocky couple of years. With the purchase of the cloud management provider, NetApp turns 2017 into a busy – although thrifty – year for M&A.

According to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase, NetApp has never before bought more than two companies in a single year. The price it’s paying for Greenqloud hasn’t been disclosed, but the target has a modest headcount and raised little funding. In its other two transactions this year – Immersive Partner Solutions and Plexistor – NetApp shelled out less than $30m in cash (total). None of the three warranted a press release – instead they were announced via quarterly earnings calls.

After five years of revenue declines, NetApp’s sales are beginning to level off. In its last quarter (the first of its fiscal year), revenue rose 2% to $1.3bn and its profit increased by 2x. Part of its strategy for getting back to growth and improving margins has been a focus on flash storage with its last major acquisition, SolidFire ($870m).

Another part of the company’s strategy, unusual among storage OEMs, is its expansion of hybrid cloud storage capabilities. NetApp’s desire to push its cloud connections forward drove both today’s deal and its pickup in May of Immersive Partner Solutions, which makes hybrid cloud monitoring software. Greenqloud brings NetApp a team that’s been offering public cloud management since 2010, and its Qstack product gives NetApp the technology architecture to expand its delivery of cloud services.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @451TechMnA.

Microsoft tones its HPC cloud with Cycle Computing

Contact: Scott Denne, Csilla Zsigri

In an effort to extend Azure into a potentially lucrative corner of the cloud market, Microsoft picks up Cycle Computing, a company that enables HPC applications in multi-cloud environments. Microsoft’s move fits with a larger trend of cloud providers building and buying software assets to attract those applications with the most appetite for compute and storage.

Cycle Computing has more than a decade of experience orchestrating, provisioning and managing HPC and other intensive computing applications across multiple environments. First developed to take advantage of grid computing, it has more recently launched CycleCloud, and joined Microsoft’s Accelerator program in 2016.

HPC is about three to five years behind enterprise computing when it comes to new technology adoption – the applications are generally more sophisticated, and engineers are conservative. Yet the HPC cloud market is accelerating, and compute- and data-intensive applications in areas such as big data, machine learning, deep learning and IoT are also moving to the cloud. We believe that Microsoft is taking advantage of these trends and is looking to use Cycle Computing’s technology to enhance Azure’s current data-processing capabilities and build virtual supercomputers in the public cloud.

By investing in HPC and other data and analytics applications, Microsoft makes Azure fertile soil for new workloads. According to 451 Research’s Voice of the Enterprise Cloud Transformation survey, 21% of data and analytics workloads will move to public clouds in the next two years, a larger share than any category excepting web and media deployments, which, not coincidently, is where Amazon has focused its recent M&A with acquisitions of Thinkbox Software and Elemental Technologies.

Moreover, that same survey showed that IT departments have a greater threshold for price increases for mission-critical data analytics workloads. Almost half (44%) said they would be willing to pay an additional 26-50% to ensure quality of service, compared with just 30% who would pay such an increase for web workloads.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @451TechMnA.

Don’t bet against Bezos

Contact: Brenon Daly

A day after Amazon’s Jeff Bezos put out an open-ended tweet to the world asking where he should donate his money, we now know at least one early recipient of his philanthropy: Whole Foods Market. OK, the $13.7bn acquisition of the grocer isn’t exactly charity, but nor is it an example of a hardened dollars-and-cents M&A strategy.

Instead, it might be most accurate to think of the Amazon-Whole Foods pairing as a blend of giving and buying, a deal that’s being attempted by one of the few CEOs who could possibly get away with spending billions of dollars of shareholder money to effectively take his company backward in time. For lack of a better term, think of Bezos’ move as a ‘patronage purchase.’

Whole Foods, which was being stung by a gadfly hedge fund, needed a buyer for the 430-store chain. (From our side, we were half expecting the grocery chain’s CEO, John Mackey, to try a Kickstarter-funded management buyout.) Amazon — or more accurately, Bezos — is convinced that the world’s largest online retailer needs a brick-and-mortar presence.

Undoubtedly, there’s a certain logic to building up the distribution network for physical goods, which account for the bulk of Amazon’s revenue. However, those sales aren’t particularly attractive, at least economically. To put some numbers on that, consider the operations for Whole Foods, a real-world business that Amazon is buying, compared with AWS, a cloud business that Amazon has built. Conveniently, both businesses generated roughly the same amount of revenue in the most recent quarter, $3.7bn. Leave aside the fact that AWS grew 43% while Whole Foods flatlined and just look at the operating margin: Whole Foods posted just $171m of operating income, only one-fifth the $890m that AWS generated.

Conventional corporate strategy would typically encourage a company to allocate resources to the business with the highest return (AWS), rather than spending billions of dollars to buy its way into a low-growth, low-margin adjacent market. But then, Bezos has never been conventional.

Historians will remember that Bezos pushed ahead with a $1.25bn convertible note offering for Amazon in 1999. At the time, the deal — the largest-ever convertible by a tech vendor — flew in the face of conventional corporate finance, giving those investors bearish on the money-burning company even more reason to mock ‘Amazon dot bomb.’ However, given that those notes converted at a price of $156 each, compared with the current market price for Amazon shares of nearly $1,000 each, it’s fair to say that Bezos has created a certain amount of goodwill on Wall Street. (Investors gave him the benefit of the doubt on the Whole Foods pickup, nudging Amazon shares slightly higher after the announcement.)

Similarly, by all accounts, Bezos’ purchase of the existentially threatened The Washington Post in 2013 has brought renewed growth to that stalwart newspaper. And while that $250m acquisition was done from Bezos’ own pocket (rather than Amazon’s treasury), it actually lines up fairly closely with the proposed reach for Whole Foods. Both groceries and newspapers represent once-thriving industries that have been decimated by a combination of technology and shifting consumer consumption patterns. In contrast, Amazon has built a half-trillion-dollar market cap on both of those trends, making it hard to bet against Bezos.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @451TechMnA.

Onapsis on the block?

Contact: Brenon Daly

Enterprise application security startup Onapsis quietly kicked off a sale process about a month ago, according to our understanding. Several sources have indicated that Onapsis, which focuses on hardening security for SAP implementations, has hired UBS to gauge interest among buyers. And while there undoubtedly will be acquisition interest in the startup, Onapsis may ultimately prove to be a bit of a tough sell. The reason? The most obvious buyers for the company don’t typically pay the type of valuations that Onapsis is thought to be asking.

In many cases, the heavy-duty SAP systems that Onapsis helps secure were implemented by one of the big consulting shops. So at least theoretically, it’s not a big leap to imagine one of these consultancies buying Onapsis and offering its platform, exclusively, to help safeguard these mission-critical systems and the data they generate. (Indeed, Onapsis already has partnerships with many of the big consulting firms, including KPMG, PWC, Accenture and others.) While that strategy may be sound, M&A always comes down to pricing. And that’s why we would think it’s probably more likely than not that eight-year-old Onapsis remains independent.

According to our understanding, Onapsis is looking to sell for roughly $200m, which would be twice the valuation of its September 2015 funding. The rumored ask works out to about 8x bookings in 2016 and 4.5x forecast bookings for this year. For a fast-growing SaaS startup, those aren’t particularly exorbitant multiples. Yet they may well price out any consulting shops, which have typically either picked up small pieces of specific infosec technology or just gobbled up security consultants. Any reach for Onapsis would require a consulting firm to pay a significantly richer price than the ‘tool’ or ‘body’ deals they have historically done.

Xactly exits

Contact: Brenon Daly

Two years after coming public, Xactly is headed private in a $564m buyout by Vista Equity Partners. The deal values shares of the sales compensation management vendor at nearly their highest-ever level, roughly twice the price at which Xactly sold them during its IPO. According to terms, Vista will pay $15.65 for each share of Xactly.

Xactly’s exit from Wall Street comes after a decidedly mixed run as a small-cap company. For the first year after its IPO, the stock struggled to gain much attention from investors. Shares lingered around their offer price, underperforming the market and, more notably, lagging the performance of direct rival Callidus Software. However, in the past year, as Xactly has posted solid mid-20% revenue growth, it gained some favor back on Wall Street. In the end, Vista is paying slightly more than 5x trailing sales for Xactly.

The valuation Vista is paying for Xactly offers an illuminating contrast to Callidus, which has pursued a much different strategy than Xactly. Although both companies got their start offering software to help businesses manage sales incentives, the much-older and much-larger Callidus has used a series of small acquisitions to expand into other areas of enterprise software, notably applications for various aspects of human resources and marketing automation. According to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase, Callidus has done seven small purchases since the start of 2014. For its part, Xactly has only bought one company in its history, the 2009 consolidation of rival Centive that essentially kept it in its existing market.

Although Xactly is getting a solid valuation in the proposed take-private, it’s worth noting that Callidus – at least partly due to its steady use of M&A – enjoys a premium to its younger rival with a narrower product portfolio. Even without any acquisition premium, Callidus trades at about 7x trailing sales. Callidus is roughly twice as big as Xactly, but has a market value that’s three times larger.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @451TechMnA.

No ray of sunshine from Cloudera IPO

Contact: Brenon Daly

As far as Wall Street is concerned, the outlook for the tech IPO market is still cloudy after Cloudera’s offering. Sure, the data analytics platform vendor priced shares higher than its underwriters expected and investors pushed the freshly minted stock about 20% higher in aftermarket trading on Friday. But that solid start isn’t likely to necessarily draw other startups to the public market because Cloudera’s capital structure got so uniquely inflated.

Few startups could even imagine – much less collect – an investment of three-quarters of a billion dollars from a single investor in a single round, as Cloudera did from Intel three years ago. The chipmaker paid up for the privilege, putting a ‘quadra unicorn’ valuation of $4.1bn on Cloudera. Altogether, Cloudera raised more than $1bn from private market investors, making the $225m raised from public market investors seem almost like lunch money.

And then there’s the small matter of valuation. In its debut, Cloudera is only worth about half of what Intel thought it was worth when it made its bet. (As we noted in our full preview of Cloudera’s IPO, Intel’s investment appears even more bubbly when we consider that, at the time, Cloudera was generating less than half the quarterly revenue it currently puts up and its operating loss actually topped its revenue.)

As a longtime corporate investor, Intel can chalk up the overpayment for the stake of Cloudera to ‘strategic’ considerations. (Much like the chipmaker effectively wrote off its massive bet on security, unwinding half of its underperforming acquisition of McAfee at roughly half the valuation it initially paid in the largest infosec transaction in history, according to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase.) Besides, Intel can afford it: the day that Cloudera priced its IPO – thus confirming Intel’s overpayment – the chipmaker reported that it earned $3bn in the first quarter of this year alone.

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Okta’s growth-story IPO finds an audience on Wall Street

Contact: Brenon Daly 

The unicorn parade on Wall Street continued Friday as security vendor Okta nearly doubled its private market valuation in its debut on the Nasdaq. The subscription-based identity and access management provider initially sold shares at $17 each, but investors bid them to about $24 in midday trading. With the surge, Okta is valued at some $2.4bn. (See our full preview of the offering.)

Okta becomes the third enterprise IT startup to come public so far this year, and it extends the strong performance of these new issues. It also joins the two previous IPOs – MuleSoft and Alteryx – in sporting a rather stretched valuation. Based on a market cap of $2.4bn, Okta is trading at about 15x trailing sales.

Granted, Okta’s sales are growing quickly, having nearly quadrupled in just the past two fiscal years to $160m. Still, the company is commanding quite a premium compared with fellow secure identity specialist CyberArk, which also just happens to be the last information security startup to create more than $1bn of value in its IPO. (To be clear, CyberArk, which went public in 2014, also sells identity-related products in the form of privileged identity management, but doesn’t really compete with Okta.)

Wall Street currently values CyberArk at about 8.2x trailing sales, or just slightly more than half the level that investors are handing to the freshly public Okta. Bulls would argue that Okta merits the premium given that it is growing twice as fast as CyberArk. But others might counter with a question about what that growth is costing each of the companies. Okta lost a mountainous $83m on its way to generating $160m in sales last year. In contrast, CyberArk, which has run in the black for the past four years, netted $28m from its 2016 revenue of $217m.

If nothing else, the valuation discrepancy underscores that growth is still the key metric for investors. Okta’s IPO is simply supply meeting demand, same as it ever was on Wall Street. Indeed, CyberArk has also experienced that. Shares of the company reached an all-time high – nearly 50% higher than current levels, roughly Okta’s current valuation – in 2015, when revenue was increasing north of 50%, compared with the mid-30% level now.

For more real-time information on tech M&A, follow us on Twitter @451TechMnA.

An earthbound IPO for Cloudera

Contact: Brenon Daly 

Looking to extend the current bull run for enterprise software IPOs, Cloudera has taken the wraps off its prospectus and put itself on track to hit Wall Street in about a month. Assuming the debut follows that schedule, the heavily funded Hadoop vendor would be the third infrastructure software provider to come public in six weeks, following MuleSoft and Alteryx. Unlike the debuts of those two other software firms, however, Cloudera’s IPO will almost certainly be a down round.

Three years ago, when Cloudera’s quarterly revenue was less than half its current level, Intel acquired 22% of the company at a valuation of $4.1bn. Since then, both the company and other equity holders agreed that ‘quadra-unicorn’ valuation got a little ahead of itself and have priced Cloudera shares below Intel’s level of just less than $31 each. (In contrast, MuleSoft has more than doubled its final private market valuation on Wall Street.) Cloudera – along with its nine underwriters, led by Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan Securities and Allen & Co – should set the inaugural public market price for shares in about a month.

Because Wall Street likes to use a ‘known’ to help assign value to an ‘unknown,’ investors will look at Cloudera’s future trading valuation relative to the current trading valuation of fellow Hadoop provider Hortonworks. However, that comparison won’t particularly help Cloudera get any closer to its previous platinum valuation. Hortonworks currently has a market capitalization of just $650m, or 3.5x its 2016 revenue and 2.7x its forecast revenue for 2017.

The two Hadoop-focused companies actually line up fairly closely with one another, financially. Cloudera and Hortonworks hemorrhage money, largely because of huge outlays on sales and marketing. (Both firms spend roughly twice as much on sales and marketing as they do on R&D.) Cloudera is nearly one-third bigger than Hortonworks, recording $261m in sales in its most recent fiscal year compared with $184m for Hortonworks. Both are growing at about 50%.

Within that revenue, both Cloudera and Hortonworks wrap a not-insignificant amount of professional services around their product, which weighs on their margins and, consequently, their valuations. Both are consciously shifting their revenue mix. Cloudera is further along in moving toward a ‘product’ company, with professional services accounting for 23% of revenue in its latest fiscal year compared with 32% for Hortonworks. That progress is also reflected in the fact that Cloudera’s gross margins are several percentage points higher than those at Hortonworks, although both are still low compared with pure software providers. (For instance, MuleSoft, which also has a professional services component, has gross margins in the mid-70% range, about seven percentage points higher than Cloudera.)

With its larger size and more-efficient model, Cloudera will undoubtedly command a premium to Hortonworks. (That will come as a relief to Cloudera because if Wall Street simply valued the company at the same multiple of trailing sales it gives Hortonworks, Cloudera wouldn’t even be a unicorn.) We’re pretty sure Cloudera will come to market with a ‘three-comma’ valuation, but it won’t be near the $4bn valuation Intel slapped on it. Perhaps Cloudera can grow into that one day, but it certainly won’t start out there.