Oct
16
2020
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Private equity firms can offer enterprise startups a viable exit option

Four years ago, Ping Identity was at a crossroads. A venerable player in the single sign-on market, its product was not a market leader, and after 14 years and $128 million in venture capital, it needed to find a new path.

While the company had once discussed an IPO, by 2016 it began putting out feelers for buyers. Vista Equity Partners made a $600 million offer and promised to keep building the company, something that corporate buyers wouldn’t guarantee. Ping CEO and co-founder Andre Durand accepted Vista’s offer, seeing it as a way to pay off his investors and employees and exit the right way. Even better, his company wasn’t subsumed into a large entity as likely would have happened with a typical M&A transaction.

As it turned out, the IPO-or-acquisition question wasn’t an either/or proposition. Vista continued to invest in the company, using small acquisitions like UnboundID and Elastic Beam to fill in its roadmap, and Ping went public last year. The company’s experience shows that private equity offers a reasonable way for mature enterprise startups with decent but not exceptional growth — like the 100% or more venture firms tend to favor — to exit, pay off investors, reward employees and still keep building the company.

But not everyone that goes this route has a tidy outcome like Ping’s. Some companies get brought into the P/E universe where they replace the executive team, endure big layoffs or sell off profitable pieces and stop investing in the product. But the three private equity firms we spoke to — Vista Equity, Thoma Bravo and Scaleworks — all wanted to see their acquisitions succeed, even if they each go about it differently.

Viable companies with good numbers

Mar
02
2020
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Thoma Bravo completes $3.9B Sophos acquisition

Thoma Bravo announced today that it has closed its hefty $3.9 billion acquisition of security firm Sophos, marking yet another private equity deal in the books.

The deal was originally announced in October. Stockholders voted to approve the deal in December.

They were paid $7.40 USD per share for their trouble, according to the company, and it indicated that as part of the closing, the stock had ceased trading on the London Stock Exchange. It also pointed out that investors who got in at the IPO price in June 2015 made a 168% premium on that investment.

Sophos hopes its new owner can help the company continue to modernize the platform. “With Thoma Bravo as a partner, we believe we can accelerate our progress and get to the future even faster, with dramatic benefits for our customers, our partners and our company as a whole,” Sophos CEO Kris Hagerman said in a statement. Whether it will enjoy those benefits or not, time will tell.

As for the buyer, it sees a company with a strong set of channel partners that it can access to generate more revenue moving forward under the Thoma Bravo umbrella. Sophos currently partners with 53,000 resellers and managed service providers, and counts more than 420,000 companies as customers. The platform currently helps protect 100 million users, according to the company. The buyer believes it can help build on these numbers.

The company was founded way back in 1985, and raised over $500 million before going public in 2015, according to PitchBook data. Products include Managed Threat Response, XG Firewall and Intercept X Endpoint.

Apr
01
2019
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Mailgun changes hands again as Thoma Bravo buys majority stake

Mailgun, an email API delivery service, announced today that it was selling a majority stake in the company to private equity firm Thoma Bravo. The companies did not share terms, but this is the second owner in the company’s eight-year history.

Mailgun provides API services for building email functionality into applications. It has more than 150,000 customers using its APIs, according to data provided by the company.

In a blog post announcing the investment, CEO William Conway said the new money should help the company expand its capabilities and accelerate the product roadmap, a common refrain from companies about to be acquired.

“We will be investing millions in the development of products you can use to enhance your deliverability, gain more insights into your emails and deliver an unparalleled experience for your customers. We’re also doubling down on customer success and enablement to ensure our customers have exactly what they need to scale their communications,” Conway wrote in the blog post.

The company, which was founded in 2010 and was a part of the Y Combinator Winter 2011 cohort, has had a complex history. Rackspace acquired it in 2012 and held onto it until 2017, when it spun out into a private company. At that point, Turn/River, another private equity firm, invested $50 million in the company. After today’s deal, Turn/River will maintain a minority ownership stake in Mailgun.

Mailgun typically competes with companies like Mailchimp and SendGrid. Thoma Bravo has a history of buying enterprise software companies. Most recently, it bought a majority stake in enterprise software company Apttus. It also has investments in SolarWinds, SailPoint and Blue Point Systems.

Thoma Bravo did not respond to a request for comment before publishing.

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