Fivetran hauls in $565M on $5.6B valuation, acquires competitor HVR for $700M

Fivetran, the data connectivity startup, had a big day today. For starters it announced a $565 million investment on a $5.6 billion valuation, but it didn’t stop there. It also announced its second acquisition this year, snagging HVR, a data integration competitor that had raised more than $50 million, for $700 million in cash and stock.

The company last raised a $100 million Series C on a $1.2 billion valuation, increasing the valuation by over 5x. As with that Series C, Andreessen Horowitz was back leading the round, with participation from other double dippers General Catalyst, CEAS Investments, Matrix Partners and other unnamed firms or individuals. New investors ICONIQ Capital, D1 Capital Partners and YC Continuity also came along for the ride. The company reports it has now raised $730 million.

The HVR acquisition represents a hefty investment for the startup, grabbing a company for a price that is almost equal to all the money it has raised to date, but it provides a way to expand its market quickly by buying a competitor. Earlier this year Fivetran acquired Teleport Data as it continues to add functionality and customers via acquisition.

“The acquisition — a cash and stock deal valued at $700 million — strengthens Fivetran’s market position as one of the data integration leaders for all industries and all customer types,” the company said in a statement.

While that may smack of corporate marketing-speak, there is some truth to it, as pulling data from multiple sources, sometimes in siloed legacy systems, is a huge challenge for companies, and both Fivetran and HVR have developed tools to provide the pipes to connect various data sources and put it to work across a business.

Data is central to a number of modern enterprise practices, including customer experience management, which takes advantage of customer data to deliver customized experiences based on what you know about them, and data is the main fuel for machine learning models, which use it to understand and learn how a process works. Fivetran and HVR provide the nuts and bolts infrastructure to move the data around to where it’s needed, connecting to various applications like Salesforce, Box or Airtable, databases like Postgres SQL or data repositories like Snowflake or Databricks.

Whether bigger is better remains to be seen, but Fivetran is betting that it will be in this case as it makes its way along the startup journey. The transaction has been approved by both companies’ boards. The deal is still subject to standard regulatory approval, but Fivetran is expecting it to close in October.

Intuit’s $12B Mailchimp acquisition is about expanding its small business focus

At first blush, the $12 billion Intuit-Mailchimp deal might not make a heck of a lot of sense. But people tend to pigeonhole companies, and in this case they might see Intuit as purely a financial software company and Mailchimp as an email marketing firm and nothing more. If that’s as far as your perspective goes, the deal is confusing. From a wider lens, however, there’s more to both companies than you might think.

Let’s start with Intuit. If you go to the company website and scan the product set, it’s clearly all about managing finances for consumer and small businesses alike. The latter category appears to be what the company wants to exploit and expand upon with this deal.

Prior to yesterday’s news, Intuit’s biggest acquisition had been on the consumer side buying Credit Karma for $7.1 billion last year. That deal gave the company’s customers a way to access their credit scores outside of the big three reporting companies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Apparently not content with only that transaction, it set its sights on Mailchimp to throw some money at the business side of the house.

DigitalOcean enhances serverless capabilities with Nimbella acquisition

As developers look for ways to simplify how they create software, serverless solutions, which enable them to write code without worrying about the underlying infrastructure required to run their applications, is becoming increasingly popular. DigitalOcean announced today that it is enhancing its existing offering in this area with the acquisition of serverless startup Nimbella. The companies did not share the terms of the deal.

With Nimbella, the company is getting a platform for building serverless applications that is built on the open source container orchestration platform, Kubernetes and Apache OpenWhisk, which is itself an open source serverless development platform.

DigitalOcean CEO Yancey Spruill, who took over two years ago, refers to Nimbella’s capabilities as Function as a Service with the goal being to simplify serverless development in an open source context for its target customers.”Serverless kinds of capabilities are taking a whole level of the infrastructure burden away from developers and businesses and we absorb that. We’ll allow our customers to have more configurability around the tools, which just removes burdens for them and allows them to go faster,” he said.

In practical terms, Nimbella CEO Anshu Agarwal says that means they are providing a specific set of tools to build sophisticated serverless applications and connect to other DigitalOcean services. “The capabilities that we will be adding to DigitalOcean portfolio are a fast solution, a function as a service solution that also integrates with the underlying DigitalOcean services [like] managed databases, storage and other services that make it make it easier for a developer to develop full applications, not just addressing events, but doing things which are completely stateless,” Agarwal explained.

Spruill said that this wasn’t the company’s first foray into serverless. That began last year when it offered its initial serverless tooling, but it wanted to build on its current offering and Nimbella fit the bill.

DigitalOcean is a cloud Infrastructure as a Service and Platform as a Service provider, aiming at individual developers, startups and SMBs. While DigitalOcean’s $318 million 2020 revenue was a fraction of the $129 billion cloud market, it is proof that there is still money to be made even with a small slice of that market.

The companies did not discuss the terms of the deal, the number of employees involved or even the title that Agarwal would have when the deal closed, but the plan is to fully integrate Nimbella into the DigitalOcean portfolio and eventually make it a DigitalOcean-branded product some time in the first half of next year.

Ramp and Brex draw diverging market plans with M&A strategies

Earlier today, spend management startup Ramp said it has raised a $300 million Series C that valued it $3.9 billion. It also said it was acquiring Buyer, a “negotiation-as-a-service” platform that it believes will help customers save money on purchases and SaaS products.

The round and deal were announced just a week after competitor Brex shared news of its own acquisition — the $50 million purchase of Israeli fintech startup Weav. That deal was made after Brex’s founders invested in Weav, which offers a “universal API for commerce platforms”.

From a high level, all of the recent deal-making in corporate cards and spend management shows that it’s not enough to just help companies track what employees are expensing these days. As the market matures and feature sets begin to converge, the players are seeking to differentiate themselves from the competition.

But the point of interest here is these deals can tell us where both companies think they can provide and extract the most value from the market.

These differences come atop another layer of divergence between the two companies: While Brex has instituted a paid software tier of its service, Ramp has not.

Earning more by spending less

Let’s start with Ramp. Launched in 2019, the company is a relative newcomer in the spend management category. But by all accounts, it’s producing some impressive growth numbers. As our colleague Mary Ann Azevedo wrote this morning:

Since the beginning of 2021, the company says it has seen its number of cardholders on its platform increase by 5x, with more than 2,000 businesses currently using Ramp as their “primary spend management solution.” The transaction volume on its corporate cards has tripled since April, when its last raise was announced. And, impressively, Ramp has seen its transaction volume increase year over year by 1,000%, according to CEO and co-founder Eric Glyman.

Ramp’s focus has always been on helping its customers save money: It touts a 1.5% cashback reward for all purchases made through its cards, and says its dashboard helps businesses identify duplicitous subscriptions and license redundancies. Ramp also alerts customers when they can save money on annual vs. monthly subscriptions, which it says has led many customers to do away with established T&E platforms like Concur or Expensify.

All told, the company claims that the average customer saves 3.3% per year on expenses after switching to its platform — and all that is before it brings Buyer into the fold.

How Cisco keeps its startup acquisition engine humming

Enterprise startups have several viable exit strategies: Some will go public, but most successful outcomes will be via acquisition, often by one of the highly acquisitive large competitors like Salesforce, Microsoft, Amazon, Oracle, SAP, Adobe or Cisco.

From rivals to “spin-ins,” Cisco has a particularly rich history of buying its way to global success. It has remained quite active, acquiring more than 30 startups over the last four years for a total of 229 over the life of the company. The most recent was Epsagon earlier this month, with five more in its most recent quarter (Q4 FY2021): Slido, Sedona Systems, Kenna Security, Involvio and Socio. It even announced three of them in the same week.

It begins by identifying targets; Cisco does that by being intimately involved with a list of up to 1,000 startups that could be a fit for acquisition.

What’s the secret sauce? How it is going faster than ever? For startups that encounter a company like Cisco, what do you need to know if you have talks that go places with it? We spoke to the company CFO, senior vice president of corporate development, and the general manager and executive vice president of security and collaboration to help us understand how all of the pieces fit together, why they acquire so many companies and what startups can learn from their process.

Cisco, as you would expect, has developed a rigorous methodology over the years to identify startups that could fit its vision. That involves product, of course, but also team and price, all coming together to make a successful deal. From targeting to negotiating to closing to incorporating the company into the corporate fold, a startup can expect a well-tested process.

Even with all this experience, chances are it won’t work perfectly every time. But since Cisco started doing M&A nine years into its history with the purchase of LAN switcher Crescendo Communications in 1993 — leading to its massive switching business today — the approach clearly works well enough that they keep doing it.

It starts with cash

If you want to be an acquisitive company, chances are you have a fair amount of cash on hand. That is certainly the case with Cisco, which currently has more than $24.5 billion in cash and equivalents, albeit down from $46 billion in 2017.

CFO Scott Herren says that the company’s cash position gives it the flexibility to make strategic acquisitions when it sees opportunities.

“We generate free cash flow net of our capex in round numbers in the $14 billion a year range, so it’s a fair amount of free cash flow. The dividend consumes about $6 billion a year,” Herren said. “We do share buybacks to offset our equity grant programs, but that still leaves us with a fair amount of cash that we generate year on year.”

He sees acquisitions as a way to drive top-line company growth while helping to push the company’s overall strategic goals. “As I think about where our acquisition strategy fits into the overall company strategy, it’s really finding the innovation we need and finding the companies that fit nicely and that marry to our strategy,” he said.

“And then let’s talk about the deal … and does it make sense or is there a … seller price point that we can meet and is it clearly something that I think will continue to be a core part of our strategy as a company in terms of finding innovation and driving top-line growth there,” he said.

The company says examples of acquisitions that both drove innovation and top-line growth include Duo Security in 2018, ThousandEyes in 2020 and Acacia Communications this year. Each offers some component that helps drive Cisco’s strategy — security, observability and next-generation internet infrastructure — while contributing to growth. Indeed, one of the big reasons for all these acquisitions could be about maintaining growth.

Playing the match game

Cisco is at its core still a networking equipment company, but it has been looking to expand its markets and diversify outside its core networking roots for years by moving into areas like communications and security. Consider that along the way it has spent billions on companies like WebEx, which it bought in 2007 for $3.2 billion, or AppDynamics, which it bought in 2017 for $3.7 billion just before it was going to IPO. It has also made more modest purchases (by comparison at least), such as MindMeld for $125 million and countless deals that were too small to require them to report the purchase price.

Derek Idemoto, SVP for corporate development and Cisco investments, has been with the company for 100 of those acquisitions and has been involved in helping scout companies of interest. His team begins the process of identifying possible targets and where they fall within a number of categories, such as whether it allows them to enter new markets (as WebEx did), extend their markets (as with Duo Security), or acqui-hire top technical talent and get some cool tech, as they did when they purchased BabbleLabs last year.

Let’s make a deal: A crash course on corporate development

Wash, rinse, repeat: A startup is founded, first product ships, customers engage, and then a larger company’s corporate development team sends a blind email requesting to “connect and compare notes.”

If you’re a venture-backed startup, it would be wise to generate a return at some point, which means either get acquired or go public.

If you’re going to get acquired, chances are you’re going to spend a lot of time with corporate development teams. With a hot stock market, mountains of cash and cheap debt floating around, the environment for acquisitions is extremely rich.

And as I’ve been on both sides of these equations, an increasing number of my FriendDA partners have been calling for advice on corporate development mating rituals.

Here are the highlights.

Before my first company was acquired, I believed that every acquisition I’d ever read about was strategic and well thought out. I was blindingly wrong.

You need to take the meeting

Book a 45-minute initial meeting. Give yourself an hour on the calendar, but only burn the full 60 minutes if things are going well. Don’t be overly excited, be a pleaser and or ramble on. Pontificate? Yes, but with precision.

You need to demonstrate a command of the domain you’ve chosen. Also, demonstrate that you’re humble and thoughtful, but never come to the first meeting with a written list of “ways we can work together.” That will smell of desperation.

In the worst-case scenario, you’ll get a few new LinkedIn connections and you’re now a known quantity. The best-case scenario will be a second meeting.

But they’re going to steal my brilliant idea!

No, they aren’t. I hear this a lot and it’s a solid tell that an entrepreneur has never operated within a large enterprise before. That’s fine, as not everyone gets to have an employee ID number with five or six digits.

Big companies manage operational expenses, including salaries and related expenses, pretty tightly. And there frequently aren’t enough experts to go around the moneyball startups for new domains, let alone older enterprises.

So there’s no secret lab with dozens of developers and subject matter experts waiting for a freshly minted MBA to return with their meeting notes and start pilfering your awesomeness. Plus, a key component to many successful startups is go-to-market (GTM), and most larger enterprises don’t have the marketing and sales domain knowledge to sell a stolen product.

They still need you and your team.

Cisco beefing up app monitoring portfolio with acquisition of Epsagon for $500M

Cisco announced on Friday that it’s acquiring Israeli applications-monitoring startup Epsagon at a price pegged at $500 million. The purchase gives Cisco a more modern microservices-focused component for its growing applications-monitoring portfolio.

The Israeli business publication Globes reported it had gotten confirmation from Cisco that the deal was for $500 million, but Cisco would not confirm that price with TechCrunch.

The acquisition comes on top of a couple of other high-profile app-monitoring deals, including AppDynamics, which the company bought in 2018 for $3.7 billion, and ThousandEyes, which it nabbed last year for $1 billion.

With Epsagon, the company is getting a way to monitor more modern applications built with containers and Kubernetes. Epsagon’s value proposition is a solution built from the ground up to monitor these kinds of workloads, giving users tracing and metrics, something that’s not always easy to do given the ephemeral nature of containers.

As Cisco’s Liz Centoni wrote in a blog post announcing the deal, Epsagon adds to the company’s concept of a full-stack offering in their applications-monitoring portfolio. Instead of having a bunch of different applications monitoring tools for different tasks, the company envisions one that works together.

“Cisco’s approach to full-stack observability gives our customers the ability to move beyond just monitoring to a paradigm that delivers shared context across teams and enables our customers to deliver exceptional digital experiences, optimize for cost, security and performance and maximize digital business revenue,” Centoni wrote.

That experience point is particularly important because when an application isn’t working, it isn’t happening in a vacuum. It has a cascading impact across the company, possibly affecting the core business itself and certainly causing customer distress, which could put pressure on customer service to field complaints, and the site reliability team to fix it. In the worst case, it could result in customer loss and an injured reputation.

If the application-monitoring system can act as an early warning system, it could help prevent the site or application from going down in the first place, and when it does go down, help track the root cause to get it up and running more quickly.

The challenge here for Cisco is incorporating Epsagon into the existing components of the application-monitoring portfolio and delivering that unified monitoring experience without making it feel like a Frankenstein’s monster of a solution globbed together from the various pieces.

Epsagon launched in 2018 and has raised $30 million. According to a report in the Israeli publication, Calcalist, the company was on the verge of a big Series B round with a valuation in the range of $200 million when it accepted this offer. It certainly seems to have given its early investors a good return. The deal is expected to close later this year.

Airtable makes Bayes its first acquisition to up its data visualization game

Airtable, the makers of the no-code relational database, announced its first acquisition today, acquiring Bayes, an early-stage visualization startup. The purpose of the purchase is to enhance the data visualizations on the Airtable platform. The companies did not share the purchase price.

Much like Airtable, Bayes focuses on a no-code approach, and the two companies have a shared vision about simplifying activities that once required engineering talent to pull off. Airtable CEO and co-founder Howie Liu says that while he hasn’t really been thinking about acquisitions, this opportunity came along and he liked how the team and product fit in with the Airtable no-code philosophy.

“We fell in love with the team and the product that they had built insofar as it showed us their vision for doing data visualization in a really interesting and user-friendly way that we thought would be applicable…and in spirit to be able to apply that kind of design thinking to Airtable’s product and enable our customers to basically better visualize their data,” Liu said.

Bayes’s four employees have joined Airtable and the plan is to shut down the product and incorporate the functionality into Airtable in the coming months.

Will Strimling, company co-founder, says his startup matched up well with Airtable, which he said was a huge inspiration for his company since it launched in 2019. He said that it seemed like they could be better together after the two companies began talking. “After comparing our respective roadmaps and future plans, it became clear that by working together we could build something that is greater than the sum of its parts — an Airtable with even more insights, visualizations and reporting features that will continue to improve the way teams manage workflows,” he said.

While Airtable does provide some basic visualization in the current product, Liu says that with Bayes it will really take that capability to a different level, allowing customers to create a custom interface on top of Airtable. “We’re going to provide much more advanced ways of graphing and reporting on your data. We’re also going to invest into giving our customers the ability to create truly a custom interface on top of the product,” he said.

Liu said up until now the company really lacked the scale to think about acquisitions, but with 500 employees in the fold he feels that they are sufficiently large, and also they have the talent on the executive team to execute on acquisitions now. “I think it’s harder to absorb acquisitions when you’re a very small company yourself, whereas now I think we’re at the scale where it starts to make sense to accelerate our roadmap by acquiring talent,” he said.

Airtable was founded in 2013 and has raised more than $600 million. The most recent round was a $270 million Series E at a fat $5.77 billion valuation, so from that perspective they have some financial flexibility to make these kinds of moves, and may consider additional purchases moving forward.

Perform a quality of earnings analysis to make the most of M&A

As a startup founder, there will be three scenarios in which you’ll need to understand how to properly do a quality of earnings (QofE) if you want to maximize value.

The first scenario will be when you decide to raise a Series A and subsequent VC rounds, followed by when you do a strategic acquisition, and lastly, when you sell your company.

This post is a framework for how to think and organize your QofE and go through the most common items that you’ll want to keep top of mind for every M&A and private equity transaction you may be part of.

Why perform a QofE?

The goal of a QofE is to adjust the reported EBITDA to calculate a restated EBITDA that best reflects the current state of the company on an ongoing basis. It also presents a historical adjusted EBITDA that is comparable throughout the last two or three years.

QofE can have a significant impact on a company valuation for three main reasons:

  1. The adjusted EBITDA will be used by a buyer/investor as the basis for valuation (for companies valued based on an EBITDA multiple).
  2. The adjusted revenue will be used to recalculate the effective growth rate.
  3. The adjusted revenue and EBITDA will form the basis of forecasts.

With that in mind, every entrepreneur must understand how to properly form a view of what is the proper adjusted EBITDA and adjusted revenue of your company. It is common for founders in an M&A process to be unfamiliar with the notion of QofE and leave value on the table.

When performed by a professional transaction service advisory team, the quality of earnings is a result of a thorough review of all the documents generally available in a data room.

This breakdown aims to ensure that you won’t be that founder and that you’ll be armed to negotiate your company valuation on equal ground with your investors. If you are in the seller’s shoes, you will get the advantage of understanding how an experienced investor or buyer thinks. If you’re in the buyer’s shoes, you’ll benefit from understanding and valuing your acquisitions better.

How is a QofE professionally performed?

When performed by a professional transaction service advisory team, the quality of earnings is a result of a thorough review of all the documents generally available in a data room. These include, but are not limited to: Legal documentation, financial statements (P&L, balance sheet, cash flow), audit reports, management presentation and contracts.

When doing a QofE analysis, it’s key to consistently ask yourself: “Can or should this information translate into an adjustment of revenue or EBITDA, net working capital (NWC) or net debt?”

Why did we include NWC and net debt? That is because they often have an indirect impact on adjusted EBITDA. Think of an adjustment to the historical level of inventory. Less inventory likely means fewer storage costs. So if you adjust historical inventory, you’ll want to also impact your adjusted EBITDA.

On top of reviewing all the aforementioned documents, your QofE analysis will heavily rely on interviewing management. No matter how long you look at the financials, if you can’t have management confirm information or explain trends, you won’t be able to draw proper conclusions and understand the numbers.

Principles for efficiently building your QofE

  1. Automatically link everything you read and hear to potential QofE adjustments. This has to become second nature during the engagement.
  2. Always think about all the ways an event or item that qualifies for an adjustment impacts the financial statements overall. For instance, if the event impacted revenue, did it impact costs in some way as well?
  3. Make sure that the cost you are adjusting was not already offset by another accounting entry (i.e., had no impact on EBITDA).
  4. Make sure that the cost you adjust for was classified above EBITDA in the first place.
  5. Make sure that you can quantify each adjustment in the most objective and rational way. This is sometimes not possible and you may have to come up with a range.

Marvell nabs Innovium for $1.1B as it delves deeper into cloud ethernet switches

Marvell announced this morning it intends to acquire Innovium for $1.1 billion in an all-stock deal. The startup, which raised over $400 million according to Crunchbase data, makes networking ethernet switches optimized for the cloud.

Marvell president and CEO Matt Murphy sees Innovium as a complementary piece to the $10 billion Inphi acquisition last year, giving the company, which makes copper-based chips, more ways to work across modern cloud data centers.

“Innovium has established itself as a strong cloud data center merchant switch silicon provider with a proven platform, and we look forward to working with their talented team who have a strong track record in the industry for delivering multiple generations of highly successful products,” Marvell CEO Matt Murphy said in a statement.

Innovium founder and CEO Rajiv Khemani, who will remain on as an advisor post-close, told a familiar tale from a startup CEO being acquired, seeing the sale as a way to accelerate more quickly as part of a larger organization than it could on its own. “As we engaged with Marvell, it became clear that our data center optimized portfolio combined with Marvell’s scale, leading technology platform and complementary portfolio, can accelerate our growth and vision of delivering breakthrough switch silicon for the cloud and edge,” he wrote in a company blog post announcing the deal.

The company, which was founded in 2014, raised over $143 million last year on a post money valuation of $1.3 billion, according to Pitchbook data. The question is was this a reasonable deal for the company given that valuation?

No company wants to sell for less than it was last valued by its investors. In some cases, such deals can still be accretive for early backers of the selling concern, but not always. In this case TechCrunch is not privy to all the details of the Innovium cap table and what its later investors may have built into their deals with the company in the form of downside protection; such measures can tilt the value of the sale of company more towards its later and final investors. This is usually managed at the expense of its earlier backers and employees.

Still, the Innovium deal should not be seen as a failure. Building a company that sells for north of $1 billion in equity value is impressive. The deal appears to be slightly smaller in enterprise value terms. In the business world, enterprise value is a useful method of valuing the true cost of an acquisition. In the case of Innovium, a large cash position, what was described as “Innovium cash and exercise proceeds expected at closing of approximately $145 million,” lowered the cost of the transaction to a more modest $955 million in net outlays.

Our general perspective is that the sale is probably not the outcome that Innovium’s backers had hoped for, but that it may still prove lucrative to early workers and early investors, and still works at that lower figure. It’s also notable how in today’s market of mega-rounds and surfeit unicorns, an exit north of the $1 billion mark in equity terms can be viewed as a disappointment in any terms. Innovium is selling for around the price that Facebook paid for Instagram in 2012, a deal that at the time was so large that it dominated technology headlines around the world.

But with so much capital available today, private valuations are soaring and mega deals abound. And recent rounds north of $100 million, much like Innovium’s 2020-era, $143 million round, can set companies up with rich valuations and a narrow path in front of them to beat those heightened expectations.

What likely happened? Perhaps Innovium found itself with more cash than opportunities to spend it; perhaps it simply needed a large partner to help it better sell into its market. With expected revenues of $150 million in Marvell’s fiscal 2023, its next fiscal period, Innovium did not fail to reach scale. It may have simply grown well as a private, independent company, and stalled out after its last round.

Regardless, a billion dollar exit is a billion dollar exit. The deal is expected to close by the end of this year. While both company boards have approved the deal, it still must clear regular closing hurdles including approval by Innovium’s private stock holders.