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.

May
05
2020
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Sinch acquires SAP’s Digital Interconnect messaging business for $250M

M&A activity has generally slowed down in the weeks since the novel coronavirus took a grip on the world, but there have been some pockets of activity in the tech industry when the price is right or when the divestment/acquisition just makes sense.

The world of messaging brings us the latest development in that theme: SAP, the CRM and enterprise software giant, is selling its Digital Interconnect messaging business to Sinch, a Swedish cloud voice, video and messaging company.

Sinch said it is paying €225 million (around $250 million) on a cash and debt-free basis for the business, which has 1,500 enterprise customers that use it for various messaging services, such as the now-popular option of running “omnichannel” conversations with customers over SMS, push, email, WhatsApp, WeChat and Viber; and messaging technology for carriers.

The deal will give Sinch, based in Sweden, a foothold in the US market — the Digital Interconnect business is headquartered in Silicon Valley — and access to a trove of customers using the kind of messaging technology that Sinch develops and sells.

The significance here is that messaging continues to be a very popular and high-volume, but low-margin (or even no-margin in some cases), business. So it makes sense for Sinch to pursue a bigger strategy for more economy of scale, a trend that I think will continue to play out. As a case in point: Sinch has been on an acquisition spree in the last month, and other deals have included Latin American messaging provider Wavy ($119 million, announced March 26), and ChatLayer ($6 million, announced April 20).

“With SAP Digital Interconnect now becoming a part of Sinch, we build on our scale, focus and capabilities to truly redefine how businesses engage with their customers, throughout the world,” comments Oscar Werner, Sinch CEO, in a statement. “The transaction strengthens our direct connectivity globally. Plus, it enables us to expand and accelerate a range of business-critical services to mobile operators, including products for person-to-person messaging, reporting and analytics.”

The news caps off nearly a month of speculation that SAP was gearing up for a sale of the legacy unit as part of a bigger strategy to focus more squarely on its CRM and newer enterprise IT services. It comes amid a particularly challenging economic environment, and that’s before considering all the IT, security and other challenges companies were facing even before COVID-19. SAP also has other fish to fry. It acquired Qualtrics in November 2018 for $8 billion, spearheading a stronger move into employee and customer experience, surveys and research; and other SAP exits this year have included shuttering travel business Hipmunk, which was part of Concur (another acquisition made by SAP), back in January.

Between then and now SAP has also seen a very notable personnel change. Its co-CEO Jennifer Morgan stepped away from the company by mutual agreement with the board, leaving Christian Klein as sole CEO (the two had been in the co-CEO roles for only six months). At the time, the company said that the abrupt change — a mere 10 days between late-Friday announcement and departure — was in response to “the current environment [which] requires companies to take swift, determined action which is best supported by a very clear leadership structure.”

It would appear that this sale is an example of the kind of swift and determined action that the board was hoping to see.

SAP’s messaging unit has been around in one form or another for years. It became a part of SAP in 2010 as part of its acquisition of Sybase, but even before that Sybase acquired Mobile 365, which had developed the messaging technology that ultimately became SAP Digital Interconnect, back in 2006.

At the time, the messaging business was the primary part of Mobile 365, and Sybase paid $417 million for that company. In that regard, it might look like SAP is now selling it for a loss, although you could also argue that 15+ year-old technology in the fast-moving world of messaging would have depreciated at this point.

The business itself is very typical of messaging: huge volumes but not huge revenues.

In 2019, SAP said that the enterprise messaging business processed 18 billion messages, while its carrier services processed 292 billion carrier messages. The Bloomberg report that broke the news about the intent to sell the division said that it made $50 million in EBITDA and $250 million in revenue last year. But actually this is small relatively speaking: SAP altogether had revenues of nearly $30 billion in the same period. In other words, it’s an okay business but not really core to SAP and where it’s going. 

On the other hand, it’s a better fit for Sinch. The company originally spun out from low-cost IP calling company Rebtel, was then acquired by publicly-traded CLX, which subsequently rebranded as Sinch. It is a much smaller company than SAP — market cap of about $3.1 billion (30.82 billion Swedish krona), versus SAP’s market cap of $139 billion — but is squarely focused on messaging services similar to those that the former SAP division offers.

“SAP Digital Interconnect is a leader in its area showing profitable growth and reaching 99 percent of the world’s mobile subscribers. Looking at Sinch’s innovation and investment strategy in the area of cloud communication platforms, we welcome them as the new owner of SDI. Sinch is perfectly positioned to unleash further growth potential we see in SDI,” said Thomas Saueressig, member of the Executive Board of SAP SE, responsible for SAP Product Engineering, in a statement.

M&A continues on in the wider European region even while so much else has slowed down or stopped in the current market. This deal follows on the heels of Intel acquiring Israel’s Moovit for $900 million this week, and Avira in Germany getting acquired by Investcorp at a $180 million valuation several weeks ago.

Apr
21
2020
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And then there was one: Co-CEO Jennifer Morgan to depart SAP

In a surprising move, SAP ended its co-CEO experiment yesterday when the company announced Jennifer Morgan will be exiting stage left on April 30th, leaving Christian Klein as the lone CEO.

The pair took over at the end of last year when Bill McDermott left the company to become CEO at ServiceNow, and it looked like SAP was following Oracle’s model of co-CEOs, which had Safra Catz and Mark Hurd sharing the job for several years before Hurd passed away last year.

SAP indicated that Morgan and the board came to a mutual decision, and that it felt that it would be better moving forward with a single person at the helm. The company made it sound like going with a single CEO was always in the plans, and they were just speeding up the time table, but it feels like it might have been a bit more of a board decision and a bit less Morgan, as these things tend to go.

“More than ever, the current environment requires companies to take swift, determined action which is best supported by a very clear leadership structure. Therefore, the decision to transfer from Co-CEO to sole CEO model was taken earlier than planned to ensure strong, unambiguous steering in times of an unprecedented crisis,” the company wrote in a statement announcing the change.

The move also means that the company is moving away from having a woman at the helm, something that’s unfortunately still rare in tech. Why the company decided to move on from the shared role isn’t clear, beyond using the current economic situation as cover. Neither is it clear why they chose to go with Klein over Morgan, but it seems awfully soon to be making a move like this when the two took over so recently.

Apr
15
2020
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ServiceNow pledges no layoffs in 2020

You don’t need your PhD in economics to know the economy is in rough shape right now due to the impact of COVID-19, but ServiceNow today pledged that it would not lay off a single employee in 2020 — and in fact, it’s hiring.

While Salesforce’s Marc Benioff pledged no significant layoffs for 90 days last month, and asked other company leaders to do the same, ServiceNow did them one better by promising to keep every employee for at least the rest of the year.

Bill McDermott, who came on as CEO at the end of last year after nine years as CEO at SAP, said that he wanted to keep his employees concentrating on the job at hand without being concerned about a potential layoff should things get a little tighter for the company.

“We want our employees focused on supporting our customers, not worried about their own jobs,” he said in a statement.

In addition, the company plans to fill 1,000 jobs worldwide, as well as hire 360 college students as interns this summer, as they continue to expand their workforce, when many industries and fellow tech companies are laying off or furloughing employees.

The company also announced that it is taking part in a program called People+Work Connect, with Accenture, Lincoln Financial Group and Verizon (the owner of this publication). This program acts as an online employer to employer clearing house for these companies to hire employees laid off or furloughed by other companies. The company plans to post 800 jobs through this channel.

Mar
08
2020
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How the information system industry became enterprise software

If you were a software company employee or venture capitalist in Silicon Valley before 1993, chances are you were talking about “Information Systems Software” and not “Enterprise Software.” How and why did the industry change its name?

The obvious, but perplexing answer is simple — “Star Trek: The Next Generation.”

As befuddling and mind-numbingly satisfying as it is to your local office Trekkie, the industry rebranded itself thanks to a marketing campaign from the original venture-backed system software company, Boole & Babbage (now BMC software).

While the term “Enterprise” was used to describe complex systems for years before 1993, everything changed when Boole & Babbage signed a two-year licensing agreement with the then-highest-rated show in syndication history to produce an infomercial.

Star Trek fans have been talking about this crazy marketing agreement for years, and you can read the full details about how it was executed in TrekCore. But even Trekkies don’t appreciate its long-term impacts on our industry. In this license agreement with Paramount, Boole & Babbage had unlimited rights to create and distribute as much Star Trek content as they could. They physically mailed VHS cassettes to customers, ran magazine ads and even dressed their employees as members of Starfleet at trade shows. Boole & Babbage used this push to market itself as the “Enterprise Automation Company.”

Commander Riker says in the infomercial, “just as the bridge centralizes the functions necessary to control the USS Enterprise, Boole’s products centralize data processing information to allow centralized control of today’s complex information systems.” This seemed to scratch an itch that other systems companies didn’t realize needed scratching.

Not to be outdone, IBM in 1994 rebranded their OS/2 operating system “OS/2 Warp,” referring to Star Trek’s “warp drive.” They also tried to replicate Babbage’s licensing agreement with Paramount by hiring the Enterprise’s Captain Picard (played by actor Patrick Stewart) to emcee the product launch. Unfortunately, Paramount wouldn’t play ball, and IBM hired Captain Janeway (played by actress Kate Mulgrew) from Star Trek: Voyager instead. The licensing issues didn’t stop IBM from also hiring Star Trek’s Mr. Spock (played by actor Leonard Nimoy) to tape a five-minute intro to the event:

Outside of OS/2, IBM’s 1994 announcement list included 13 other “enterprise” initiatives. Soon, leading software companies began to rebrand themselves and release products using the term “enterprise software” as a valuable identifier. MRP software makers like SAP and Baan began embracing the new “Enterprise” moniker after 1993 and in 1995, Lotus rebranded itself as an “Enterprise Software Company.”

“Enterprise” was officially the coolest new vernacular and after industry behemoth IBM bought Lotus in 1996, they incorporated “Enterprise” across all of their products. And while Gartner’s 1990 paper “ERP: A Vision of the Next-Generation MRP II” by Wylie is the technical birth of ERP software, no one cared until Commander Riker told Harold to “monitor your entire Enterprise from a single point of control.” The ngram numbers don’t lie:

Almost 30 years later, we live in a world in which business is run on enterprise software and the use of the term is ubiquitous. Whenever I see a software business plan come across my desk or read an article on enterprise software, I can’t help but give Commander Riker a little due credit.

Feb
19
2020
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Thomas Kurian on his first year as Google Cloud CEO

“Yes.”

That was Google Cloud CEO Thomas Kurian’s simple answer when I asked if he thought he’d achieved what he set out to do in his first year.

A year ago, he took the helm of Google’s cloud operations — which includes G Suite — and set about giving the organization a sharpened focus by expanding on a strategy his predecessor Diane Greene first set during her tenure.

It’s no secret that Kurian, with his background at Oracle, immediately put the entire Google Cloud operation on a course to focus on enterprise customers, with an emphasis on a number of key verticals.

So it’s no surprise, then, that the first highlight Kurian cited is that Google Cloud expanded its feature lineup with important capabilities that were previously missing. “When we look at what we’ve done this last year, first is maturing our products,” he said. “We’ve opened up many markets for our products because we’ve matured the core capabilities in the product. We’ve added things like compliance requirements. We’ve added support for many enterprise things like SAP and VMware and Oracle and a number of enterprise solutions.” Thanks to this, he stressed, analyst firms like Gartner and Forrester now rank Google Cloud “neck-and-neck with the other two players that everybody compares us to.”

If Google Cloud’s previous record made anything clear, though, it’s that technical know-how and great features aren’t enough. One of the first actions Kurian took was to expand the company’s sales team to resemble an organization that looked a bit more like that of a traditional enterprise company. “We were able to specialize our sales teams by industry — added talent into the sales organization and scaled up the sales force very, very significantly — and I think you’re starting to see those results. Not only did we increase the number of people, but our productivity improved as well as the sales organization, so all of that was good.”

He also cited Google’s partner business as a reason for its overall growth. Partner influence revenue increased by about 200% in 2019, and its partners brought in 13 times more new customers in 2019 when compared to the previous year.

Jan
13
2020
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Google brings IBM Power Systems to its cloud

As Google Cloud looks to convince more enterprises to move to its platform, it needs to be able to give businesses an onramp for their existing legacy infrastructure and workloads that they can’t easily replace or move to the cloud. A lot of those workloads run on IBM Power Systems with their Power processors, and, until now, IBM was essentially the only vendor that offered cloud-based Power systems. Now, however, Google is also getting into this game by partnering with IBM to launch IBM Power Systems on Google Cloud.

“Enterprises looking to the cloud to modernize their existing infrastructure and streamline their business processes have many options,” writes Kevin Ichhpurani, Google Cloud’s corporate VP for its global ecosystem, in today’s announcement. “At one end of the spectrum, some organizations are re-platforming entire legacy systems to adopt the cloud. Many others, however, want to continue leveraging their existing infrastructure while still benefiting from the cloud’s flexible consumption model, scalability, and new advancements in areas like artificial intelligence, machine learning, and analytics.”

Power Systems support obviously fits in well here, given that many companies use them for mission-critical workloads based on SAP and Oracle applications and databases. With this, they can take those workloads and slowly move them to the cloud, without having to re-engineer their applications and infrastructure. Power Systems on Google Cloud is obviously integrated with Google’s services and billing tools.

This is very much an enterprise offering, without a published pricing sheet. Chances are, given the cost of a Power-based server, you’re not looking at a bargain, per-minute price here.

Because IBM has its own cloud offering, it’s a bit odd to see it work with Google to bring its servers to a competing cloud — though it surely wants to sell more Power servers. The move makes perfect sense for Google Cloud, though, which is on a mission to bring more enterprise workloads to its platform. Any roadblock the company can remove works in its favor, and, as enterprises get comfortable with its platform, they’ll likely bring other workloads to it over time.

Oct
22
2019
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Former SAP CEO Bill McDermott taking over as ServiceNow CEO

When Bill McDermott announced he was stepping down as CEO at SAP a couple of weeks ago, it certainly felt like a curious move — but he landed on his feet pretty quickly. ServiceNow announced he would be taking over as CEO there. The transition will take place at year-end.

If you’re wondering what happened to the current ServiceNow CEO, John Donahoe, well he landed a job as CEO at Nike. The CEO carousel goes round and round (and painted ponies go up and down).

Jeff Miller, lead independent director on the ServiceNow board of directors, was “thrilled” to have McDermott fill the void left by Donahoe’s departure. “His global experience and proven track record will provide for a smooth transition and continued strong leadership. Bill will further enhance ServiceNow’s momentum and reputation as a digital workflows leader committed to customer success, and as a preferred strategic partner enabling enterprise digital transformation,” Miller said in a statement.

Jennifer Morgan and Christian Klein replaced McDermott as co-CEOs at SAP, and during the announcement, McDermott indicated he would stay until the end of the year to help with the transition. After that, no vacation for McDermott, who will apparently start at ServiceNow after his obligations at SAP end.

As Frederic Lardinois wrote regarding McDermott’s resignation:

I last spoke to McDermott about a month ago, during a fireside chat at our TechCrunch Sessions: Enterprise event. At the time, I didn’t come away with the impression that this was a CEO on his way out (though McDermott reminded me that if he had already made his decision a month ago, he probably wouldn’t have given it away).

ServiceNow is a much different company than SAP. SAP was founded in 1972 and was a traditional on-premises software company. ServiceNow was founded in 2004 and was born as a SaaS company. While McDermott was part of a transition from a traditional, on-premises enterprise software company to the cloud, working at ServiceNow he will be leading a much smaller organization. Published estimates have SAP at around 100,000 employees, while ServiceNow now has around 10,000.

It’s worth noting that the company made the announcement after the market closed and it announced its latest quarterly earnings. Wall Street did not appear to the like news, as the stock was down $13.34, or 5.84%, in early after-hours trading.

Oct
21
2019
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Veteran enterprise exec Bob Stutz is heading back to SAP

Bob Stutz has had a storied career with enterprise software companies, including stints at Siebel Systems, SAP, Microsoft and Salesforce. He announced on Facebook last week that he’s leaving his job as head of the Salesforce Marketing Cloud and heading back to SAP as president of customer experience.

Bob Stutz Facebook announcement

Bob Stutz Facebook announcement

Constellation Research founder and principal analyst Ray Wang says that Stutz has a reputation for taking companies to the next level. He helped put Microsoft CRM on the map (although it still had just 2.7% market share in 2018, according to Gartner) and he helped move the needle at Salesforce Marketing Cloud.

Bob Stutz

Bob Stutz, SAP’s new president of customer experience (Photo: Salesforce)

“Stutz was the reason Salesforce could grow in the Marketing Cloud and analytics areas. He fixed a lot of the fundamental architectural and development issues at Salesforce, and he did most of the big work in the first 12 months. He got the acquisitions going, as well,” Wang told TechCrunch. He added, “SAP has a big portfolio, from CallidusCloud to Hybris to Qualtrics, to put together. Bob is the guy you bring in to take a team to the next level.”

Brent Leary, who is a long-time CRM industry watcher, says the move makes a lot of sense for SAP. “Having Bob return to head up their Customer Experience business is a huge win for SAP. He’s been everywhere, and everywhere he’s been was better for it. And going back to SAP at this particular time may be his biggest challenge, but he’s the right person for this particular challenge,” Leary said.

Screenshot 2019 10 21 09.15.45

The move comes against the backdrop of lots of changes going on at the German software giant. Long-time CEO Bill McDermott recently announced he was stepping down, and that Jennifer Morgan and Christian Klein would be replacing him as co-CEOs. Earlier this year, the company saw a line of other long-time executives and board members head out the door, including SAP SuccessFactors COO Brigette McInnis-Day; Robert Enslin, president of its cloud business and a board member; CTO Björn Goerke; and Bernd Leukert, a member of the executive board.

Having Stutz on board could help stabilize the situation somewhat, as he brings more than 25 years of solid software company experience to bear on the company.

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