Jul
28
2020
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SAP decision to spin out Qualtrics 20 months after spending $8B surprises industry watchers

When SAP announced it was spinning out Qualtrics on Sunday, a company it bought less than two years ago for an eye-popping $8 billion, it was enough to make your head spin. At the time, then CEO Bill McDermott saw it as a way to bridge the company’s core operational with customer data, while acquiring a cloud company that could help generate recurring revenue for the ERP giant, and maybe give it a dose of innovation along the way.

But Sunday night the company announced it was spinning out the acquisition, giving its $8 billion baby independence, and essentially handing the company back to founder Ryan Smith, who will become the largest individual shareholder when this all over.

It’s not every day you see founders pull in a windfall like $8 billion, get sucked into the belly of the large corporate beast and come out the other side just 20 months later with the cash, independence and CEO as the largest individual stockholder.

While SAP will own a majority of the stock, much like Dell owns a majority of VMware, the company will operate independently and have its own board. It can acquire other firms and make decisions separately from SAP.

We spoke to a few industry analysts to find out what they think about all this, and while the reasoning behind the move involves a lot of complex pieces, it could be as simple as the deal was done under the previous CEO, and the new one was ready to move on from it.

Bold step

It’s certainly unusual for a company like SAP to spend this kind of money, and then turn around so quickly and spin it off. In fact, Brent Leary, principal analyst at CRM Essentials, says that this was a move he didn’t see coming, and it could be related to that fat purchase price. “To me it could mean that SAP didn’t see the synergies of the acquisition panning out as they had envisioned and are looking to recoup some of their investment,” Leary told TechCrunch.

Holger Mueller, an analyst with Constellation Research agreed with Leary’s assessment, but doesn’t think that means the deal failed. “SAP doesn’t lose anything in regards to their […] data and experience vision, as they still retain [controlling interest in Qualtrics] . It also opens the opportunity for Qualtrics to partner with other ERP vendors [and broaden its overall market],” he said.

Jeanne Bliss, founder and president at CustomerBLISS, a company that helps clients deliver better customer experiences sees this as a positive step forward for Qualtrics. “This spin off enables Qualtrics to focus on its core business and prove its ability to provide essential technology executives are searching for to enable speed of decision making, innovation and customization,” she said.

Show me the money

Patrick Moorhead, founder and principal analyst at Moor Insight & Strategy sees the two companies moving towards a VMware/Dell model where SAP removes the direct link between them, which could then make them more attractive to a broader range of customers than perhaps they would have been as part of the SAP family. “The big play here is all financial. With tech stocks up so high, SAP isn’t seeing the value in its stock. I am expecting a VMware kind of alignment with a strategic collaboration agreement,” he said.

Ultimately though, he says the the move reflects a cultural failure on the part of SAP. It simply couldn’t find a way to co-exist with a younger, more nimble company like Qualtrics. “I believe SAP spinning out Qualtrics is a sign that its close connection to create symbiotic value has failed. The original charter was to bring it in to modernize SAP but apparently the “not invented here” attitudes kicked in and doomed integration,” Moorhead said.

That symbiotic connection would have involved McDermott’s vision of combining operational and customer data, but Leary also suggested that since the deal happened under previous the CEO, that perhaps new CEO Christian Klein wants to start with a clean slate and this simply wasn’t his deal.

Qualtrics for the win

In the end, Qualtrics got all that money, gets to IPO after all, and returns to being an independent company selling to a larger potential customer base. All of the analysts we spoke to agreed the news is a win for Qualtrics itself.

Leary says the motivation for the original deal was to give SAP a company that could sell beyond its existing customer base. “It seems like that was the impetus for the acquisition, and the fact that SAP is spinning it off as an IPO 20 months after acquiring Qualtrics gives me the impression that things didn’t come together as expected,” he said.

Mueller also sees nothing but postivies Qualtrics. “It’s a win […] for Qualtrics, which can now deliver what they wanted [from the start], and it’s a win for customers as Qualtrics can run as fast as they want,” he said.

Regardless, the company moves on, and the Qualtrics IPO moves forward, and it’s almost as though Qualtrics gets a do-over with $8 billion in its pocket for its trouble.

Jul
26
2020
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SAP will spin out its $8B spin-in Qualtrics acquisition

Well, this isn’t a story you see every day.

Less than two years after German software giant SAP snatched experience management platform Qualtrics for $8 billion days before the startup’s IPO debut, it has now decided to spin out the company in a brand new IPO.

In a press statement released Sunday, SAP said that Qualtrics had seen cloud growth “in excess of 40 percent” in a quote attributed to SAP CEO Christian Klein. The company will continue to be run by founder and former CEO Ryan Smith, who joined SAP with Qualtrics and led the organization within the German conglomerate.

SAP will retain majority ownership of the new spin out. Interestingly, the statement noted that “Ryan Smith intends to be Qualtrics’ largest individual shareholder.”

SAP’s press statement is vague, but the implication is that the move will offer Qualtrics more flexibility to engage with customers and partners outside of its parent company’s dominion.

I am sure my Equity colleague Alex Wilhelm will have much more to analyze tomorrow with his The Exchange column, but SAP’s rapid about-face on the acquisition is a major surprise. While private equity firms will take a company private and sometimes quickly turn it around in an IPO, it is rare to see a large company like SAP make such a dramatic last-minute bid for a company only to reverse that decision just months later.

Given the heated market for SaaS markets these days though, the path seems clear for Qualtrics’ return to the public markets, particularly if the soon-to-be independent company’s metrics have held up since we last saw its financials. As Wilhelm and his Crunchbase news team wrote back during its S-1 filing:

Qualtrics, unlike most companies going public this year, isn’t a trash fire of losses incurred under the name of growth. It shows that you can grow, and not lose every one of the dollars you have at the same time.

“Isn’t a trash fire” was a high bar back then, but Qualtrics was indeed an outperformer of its peer group. Assuming those fundamentals haven’t changed, it looks like a real win for Qualtrics and Smith, and a save by SAP from whatever strategic plan they decided to change midstream.

Apr
12
2017
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Qualtrics waits on that IPO, raises $180 million at a $2.5 billion valuation instead

 That Qualtrics IPO many have been expecting is on hold for now. The online market research platform has just raised its third round for $180 million at a whopping $2.5 billion valuation. The Provo, Utah-based company came from much humbler beginnings, bootstrapping the operation for a decade before finally taking financing from Sequoia and Accel in 2012. It has blown up since then,… Read More

Apr
10
2017
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Is Qualtrics about to go public? A chat with founder Ryan Smith on the IPO question

 Qualtrics, an online survey research platform, is listed as tops among likely candidates to go public this year. But is it really going to file and, if so, how close is it to doing that? I’m betting yes and very soon based on some interesting answers in a recent interview with founder Ryan Smith. Read More

Sep
23
2015
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Qualtrics Founder Ryan Smith Talks Bootstrapping His Company And Then Raising A Boatload Of Cash

Ryan Smith Qualtrics Bryan Schreier Sequoia Capital - 15 Qualtrics spent most of its life bootstrapped and trying to be profitable. Then it raised $220 million — and Qualtrics CEO Ryan Smith was worried he’d have to move to Silicon Valley. But the company has become a success story coming out of Utah, and the company’s focus on profitability and being a sustainable business from day one has taught Qualtrics’ employees to… Read More

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