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.


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.

MuleSoft gets a thoroughbred valuation in its IPO

Contact: Brenon Daly 

After a four-month shutout, the enterprise tech IPO market is back open for business. Infrastructure software vendor MuleSoft surged onto the NYSE, more than doubling its private market valuation. It sold 13 million shares at an above-range $17 each, and the stock promptly soared to $24.50 in late-Friday-afternoon trading. That puts the fast-growing company’s market valuation at slightly more than $3bn, twice the $1.5bn value that venture investors put on it.

MuleSoft’s debut valuation puts it in rarified air. Based on an initial market cap of $3.1bn, investors are valuing the company at a stunning 16.5x its trailing sales of $190m. That multiple is twice the level of fellow data-integration specialist Talend, which went public last July. Talend currently trades at a market cap of about $875m, or 8.3x its trailing sales of $106m. The valuation discrepancy indicates that investors are once again putting a premium on growth: MuleSoft is larger than Talend and – more importantly to Wall Street – it is growing nearly twice as fast. (See our full report on the offering as well as MuleSoft’s ‘hybrid integration’ strategy – what it is and where it might take the company in the future.)

The IPO netted MuleSoft $221m, or $206m after fees. That’s undoubtedly a handy amount, but we would note that it is still less than the $260m it raised, collectively, from private market investors. (Somewhat unusually, there are three corporate investors on the company’s cap table.) All of those MuleSoft backers are substantially above water on their investment following the IPO. That bullish debut is likely to draw more high-flying startups to Wall Street after a discouraging 2016, when only two enterprise tech unicorns went public. This year will likely match that number next month, when Okta debuts. The identity management startup revealed its IPO paperwork earlier this week, putting it on track for a mid-April debut.


With Okta, infosec no longer conspicuously absent from the IPO market

Contact: Brenon Daly 

Even as several other fast-growing enterprise IT sectors have all seen unicorns gallop onto Wall Street, richly valued information security (infosec) startups have stayed off the IPO track. The sector hasn’t seen a $1bn company created on a US exchange in more than two-and-a-half years. Infosec has been conspicuous by its absence from the tech IPO market, especially considering that no other single segment of the IT market has as many viable public company candidates. Fully one-quarter of the startups in the ‘shadow IPO’ pipeline maintained by 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase Premium come from the infosec space. (See related report.)

At long last, one of the infosec unicorns is (finally) ready to step onto the public market: cloud-based identity management startup Okta has publicly revealed its paperwork for a $100m offering that should price next month. The company, which raised nearly $230m in venture backing, had already achieved a $1bn+ valuation in the private market – and will head north from there in the public market.

Wall Street will undoubtedly find a lot to like in Okta’s prospectus. The company is doubling revenue each year, with virtually all of its sales coming from subscriptions. (Professional services accounts for roughly 10% of total revenue, a lower percentage than most of the big-name SaaS vendors.) Subscription revenue gives a certain predictability to a company’s top line, especially when coupled with the ability to consistently expand those subscriptions. Okta notes in its prospectus that its customer retention rate, on a dollar basis, is slightly more than 120%, an enviable rate for any subscription-based startup. Put it altogether and revenue at Okta for the fiscal year that ended in January is likely to be in the neighborhood of $160m, up from $86 in the previous fiscal year and just $41m in the fiscal year before that.

Having quadrupled revenue in just two years, Okta’s red ink isn’t likely to worry many investors. Through its first three fiscal quarters (ended October 31, 2016), Okta lost $65m, up from $55m in the same period the previous fiscal year. As is often the case with SaaS providers, Okta’s losses stem primarily from heavy spending on sales and marketing. Early on, Okta was spending slightly more than $1 on sales and marketing to bring in $1 of subscription revenue. It has since slowed the spending, with the result that in its latest quarter it spent $32m on sales and marketing to bring in $38m in subscriptions. (For comparison, Box – one of the more egregious spenders – shelled out $47m on sales and marketing to generate exactly the same subscription revenue as Okta ($39m) in its most recent quarter when it originally filed to go public in 2014.)

Okta’s IPO would represent the first new $1bn valuation for an infosec vendor on the NYSE or Nasdaq since CyberArk’s offering in September 2014. Sophos went public (rather quietly) in 2015 on the London Stock Exchange, and the two domestic infosec IPOs since then (Rapid7 and SecureWorks) both currently trade underwater from their offering. In contrast to the recent infosec shutout, startups from several other IT sectors have all been able to enhance their $1bn private-market valuation on Wall Street, including Nutanix, Atlassian, Twilio and Pure Storage. That list will get a little longer as MuleSoft is set to debut at more than a $2bn market cap, up from $1.5bn in its final round as a private company.

A mule that’s actually a unicorn

Contact: Brenon Daly 

Unlike a fair number of late-stage startups, MuleSoft is no donkey trying to pass itself off as a unicorn. The fast-growing data-integration specialist has tripled revenue over the past three years, and appears to be on track to put up about $250m in sales this year. More importantly, MuleSoft is not hemorrhaging money. That should play well on Wall Street, which has telegraphed that it will no longer reward the growth-at-any-cost strategy at startups that want to come public (ahem, Snap Inc).

Assuming MuleSoft does indeed make it to the NYSE, where it will trade under the ticker MULE, it would mark the first enterprise technology IPO since last October. Of course, Snap is currently on the road, telling potential investors that its business model, which consists of hardware and disappearing messages, is the next Facebook rather than the next Twitter. But we’ll leave aside the offering from that consumer technology vendor, which just might be able to convince investors that losing a half-billion dollars last year, which is about $100m more than it booked as revenue, is a sustainable or even desirable business model.

Instead of Snap’s planned IPO, MuleSoft’s offering lines up more closely with fellow infrastructure software provider AppDynamics. (At least up to the point where Cisco comes in with a too-good-to-be-ignored $3.7bn offer.) A glance at the prospectus from each vendor shows both growing at a rapid clip (AppDynamics posted a slightly higher rate, even off a bigger base) and posting GAAP numbers that were at least headed out of the red (MuleSoft lost less than AppDynamics, on both an absolute and relative basis). Also, both firms had annual customer retention rates, measured by dollars spent, of roughly 120%. Wall Street eats up that sort of metric.

MuleSoft raised roughly $250m in total funding, most recently announcing a $128m round in mid-2015. With investors clamoring for growth tech companies right now, MuleSoft could certainly start life as a public entity with a double-digit multiple. Maybe not the nearly 18x trailing sales that AppDynamics commanded in its sale to Cisco. (After all, that was terminal value, not trading value.) But MuleSoft could almost undoubtedly convince Wall Street that it’s worth a premium to Talend, a rival data-integration vendor that came public last summer and currently trades at about 7x trailing sales. MuleSoft is larger than Talend and – more importantly to Wall Street – it is growing twice as fast. That profile will likely boost MuleSoft’s initial valuation on Wall Street to north of $2bn, or 10x its trailing sales of $190m.

2016 enterprise tech IPOs*
Company Date of offering
SecureWorks April 22, 2016
Twilio June 23, 2016
Talend July 29, 2016
Apptio September 23, 2016
Nutanix September 30, 2016
Coupa October 7, 2016
Everbridge October 11, 2016
BlackLine Systems October 27, 2016
Quantenna Communications October 27, 2016
Source: 451 Research *Includes Nasdaq and NYSE listings only

ServiceNow adds some smarts to the platform with DxContinuum

Contact: Brenon Daly

Continuing its M&A strategy of bolting on technology to its core platform, ServiceNow has reached for predictive software startup DxContinuum. Terms of the deal, which is expected to close later this month, weren’t announced. DxContinuum had taken in only one round of funding, and appears to have focused its products primarily on predictive analytics for sales and marketing. ServiceNow indicated that it plans to roll the technology, which it described as ‘intelligent automation,’ across its products with the goal of processing requests more efficiently.

Originally founded as a SaaS-based provider of IT service management, ServiceNow has expanded its platform into other technology markets including HR software, information security and customer service. Most of that expansion has been done organically. ServiceNow spends more than $70m per quarter, or roughly 20% of revenue, on R&D.

In addition, it has acquired four companies, including DxContinuum, over the past two years, according to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase. However, all four of those acquisitions have been small deals involving startups that are five years old or younger. ServiceNow has paid less than $20m for each of its three previous purchases. The vendor plans to discuss more of the specifics about its DxContinuum buy when it reports earnings next Wednesday.

ServiceNow’s reach for DxContinuum comes amid a boom time for machine-learning M&A. We recently noted that the number of transactions in this emerging sector set a record in 2016, with deal volume soaring 60% from the previous year. Further, the senior investment bankers we surveyed last month picked machine learning as the top M&A theme for 2017. More than eight out of 10 respondents (82%) to the 451 Research Tech Banking Outlook Survey predicted an uptick in machine-learning M&A activity, outpacing the predictions for acquisitions in all individual technology markets as well as the other four cross-market themes of the Internet of Things, big data, cloud computing and converged IT.

Synchronoss: Can middle-aged companies pivot, too?

Contact: Brenon Daly

Announcing the most significant overhaul of its 16-year-old company, Synchronoss has shed a large portion of its legacy telecom business and made an $821m acquisition of collaboration software provider Intralinks in an effort to evolve more fully into an enterprise software vendor. Synchronoss began its enterprise push last year, using smaller purchases to add identity management and enterprise mobility management technology to its portfolio. However, sales to businesses currently generate only a small slice of its overall revenue. With the divestiture and the addition of Intralinks, roughly 40% of the company’s total sales will come from enterprises.

Reflecting the importance of its new focus on enterprises, Synchronoss said the combined entity would be led by current Intralinks CEO Ron Hovsepian, reversing the typical post-acquisition leadership arrangement. Additionally, Synchronoss noted that Intralinks brings a direct sales force of more than 150 sales reps to the effort. However, Intralinks had only been increasing its revenue at a high-single-digit percentage rate so far in 2016. The transaction is expected to close late in the first quarter of 2017.

Synchronoss’ divestiture of a majority portion of its carrier activation business figures into the company’s pivot, as well. The sale of 70% of the unit for $146m to existing partner Sequential Technology reduces the legacy carrier-focused portion of revenue, as well as eases customer-concentration concerns for Synchronoss. The company is still trying to sell the remaining 30% of its activation unit, a process it indicated could take 12-18 months.

A portion of the funds from the divestiture, along with some cash on hand, will go toward covering a bit of the Intralinks buy. However, Synchronoss said it will have to borrow $900m to pay for most of the purchase. (Synchronoss is spending about twice as much on Intralinks as it has spent, collectively, on its previous 11 acquisitions since 2002, according to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase.) The new debt – along with the accompanying dilution of earnings to service it – unnerved some investors. Shares dropped 12% on the announcement, but are still up about 20% for the year.

Probably more of a concern on Wall Street, however, are the challenges associated with such a dramatic shift in business model – one that has a decidedly mixed record. Already this year, we have seen a number of high-profile companies backtrack on their earlier efforts to use M&A to become enterprise software vendors. Dell, Hewlett-Packard and Lexmark, among others, have all unwound or are trying to unwind billions of dollars of deals they did over the past decade to step from their original business into the enterprise software arena.

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

It’s win or go home for Oracle and its bid for NetSuite

Contact: Brenon Daly

Just like this year’s World Series, there’s a dramatic win-or-go-home contest playing out in the tech M&A market. The showdown pits the ever-acquisitive Oracle against one of Wall Street’s biggest investors. The stakes? The fate of the largest SaaS acquisition ever proposed.

At midnight tonight, Oracle’s massive $9.5bn bid for NetSuite will effectively expire. In the original offer three months ago, Oracle said it will pay $109 for each of the nearly 87 million (fully diluted) shares of NetSuite, valuing the subscription-based ERP vendor at $9.5bn. That wasn’t enough for NetSuite’s second-largest shareholder, T. Rowe Price. Instead, the institutional investor suggested that Oracle pay $133 for each NetSuite share, adding $2bn to the (hypothetical) price tag.

Oracle has declined to top its own bid. Nor will it adjust the other major variable in negotiations: time. (Oracle has already extended the deal’s deadline once, and says it won’t do it again.) In an unusually public display of brinkmanship in M&A, Oracle has said it will walk away from its $9.5bn bid if enough shareholders don’t sign off on its ‘best and final offer.’ As things stand, shareholder support is far below the required level, largely because of T. Rowe’s opposition.

Does T. Rowe have a case that Oracle is shortchanging NetSuite shareholders with a discount bid? Or is the investment firm greedily hoping to fatten its return on NetSuite by baiting Oracle to spend more money? If we look at the proposed valuation for NetSuite, it’s hardly a low-ball offer. On the basis of enterprise value, Oracle’s current bid values NetSuite at 11.1x trailing sales. That’s solidly ahead of the average M&A multiple of 10.3x trailing sales for other large-scale horizontal SaaS providers, according to 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase. (For the record, T. Rowe’s proposed valuation of $11.6bn for NetSuite roughly equates to 13.7x trailing sales – a full turn higher than any other major SaaS transaction.)

With the two sides appearing unwilling to budge, NetSuite will likely return to its status as a stand-alone software firm. If that is indeed the case, NetSuite will probably have to get used to that status. The roughly 40% stake of NetSuite held by Oracle chairman Larry Ellison serves as a powerful deterrent to any other would-be bidder, which was one of the points T. Rowe raised in its rejection of the deal. Assuming 18-year-old NetSuite stands once again on its own, the first order of business will be to pick up growth again. (Although there’s still the small matter of a $300m termination fee in the transaction.) In its Q3, NetSuite reported that revenue increased just 26%, down from 30% in the first half of the year and 33% for the full-year 2015.

Select multibillion-dollar SaaS deals

Date announced Acquirer Target Deal value Price/trailing sales multiple
July 28, 2016 Oracle NetSuite $9.3bn 11.1x
September 18, 2014 SAP Concur $8.3bn 12.4x
May 22, 2012 SAP Ariba $4.5bn 8.6x
December 3, 2011 SAP SuccessFactors $3.6bn 11.7x
June 1, 2016 Salesforce Demandware $2.8bn 11x
June 4, 2013 Salesforce ExactTarget $2.5bn 7.6x

Source: 451 Research’s M&A KnowledgeBase