BlackBerry denies talking to Samsung about an acquisition

Reuters reported on Wednesday that Samsung had “approached” BlackBerry about a potential takeover for as much as $7.5 billion. While a surprise, it wasn’t the most outlandish rumor: Both Samsung and BlackBerry are companies with big mobile divisions and significant interest in the burgeoning internet of things.

BlackBerry’s stock, naturally, spiked on the news, only to fall back a few hours later when [company]BlackBerry[/company] publicly denied the rumors in a press release: “BlackBerry has not engaged in discussions with Samsung with respect to any possible offer to purchase BlackBerry.”

BlackBerry’s stock shot up nearly 30 percent to $12.81 at one point this afternoon, but it had fallen to $11.49 in after-hours trading at the time of publication. The Reuters report said [company]Samsung[/company] was looking to purchase BlackBerry at a price range of $13.35 to $15.49 per share.

generate_fund_chart

It seems Microsoft is buying email app Acompli

[Update 2 Dec 2014 — Microsoft’s Rajesh Jha confirmed that they have acquired Acompli, writing that Microsoft did so as a part of its commitment to mobile experience:

In a world where more than half of email messages are first read on a mobile device, it’s essential to give people fantastic email experiences wherever they go.

]

An overeager Microsoft exec, Rajesh Jha, created a post on the official Microsoft blog with the URL http://blogs.microsoft.com/blog/2014/11/25/microsoft-acquires-acompli/, as reported by Mark Wilson, which as the URL indicates, makes it look like Microsoft has acquired Acompli. Acompli is an email application with integrated calendar that some have called the mobile Outlook that Microsoft should have made. When you click the link it takes you to a ‘page not found’ landing page, but Mark Wilson has a screenshot of a page that has apparently been deleted.

Accompli has several clever features, including a people-first presentation of email, and a means to quickly share available times for meetings via email.

I expect we’ll learn more about this turn of events after the Thanksgiving holiday week. It is likely that the deal is done, since creating a blog post about it would be one of the last things to be done.

 

Tibco taken private by Vista Equity Partners for $4.3B

In an unusual move, Tibco has announced that the firm has been acquired by Vista Equity Partners for $4.3 billion, the largest buyout in tech this year. The sale followed a strategic review of options, following disappointing results: profit in the most recent quarter had fallen to $1.5 million, a precipitous drop from the $8.8 million a year ago. The company’s stock is down 23% in the last 12 months.

I have heard little about the company’s work technology solution, tibbr, in recent months. The product is an example of the now conventional social collaboration model: activity-stream-based communications, user profiles, defined shared contexts, file sharing, and integration to external applications.

microblogging-page-slideshow-1

Faced with competition like Microsoft/Yammer, IBM Connections, SAP, Jive, and many, many others, tibbr has had a tough run in a tight market. It will be interesting to see what new developments follow Tibco’s acquisition.

As I said yesterday, this sort of work technology is becoming a commodity, something that the giants of the industry will provide for next to nothing while making money in other ways (see Even connection is becoming a commodity). The pressures on a smaller firm like Tibco will make it hard to compete in that new environment.

Vista Equity Partners is an unusual firm, run by the highly impressive Robert F. Smith, a former Goldman Sachs technologist who worked with Apple on bringing Steve Jobs back to Apple through the acquisition of NeXT, along with a strong of other huge deals. He left to found Vista, because he wanted to make those decisions, not just advise others.

Unlike many equity firms, Vista generally does not strip out operational costs to turn its acquisitions around. Instead, Smith invests additional sales and engineering resources. And the firm has very unusual hiring:

David Gelles, A Private Equity Titan With a Narrow Focus and Broad Aims

[…] instead of searching for candidates with Ivy League degrees and prestigious internships, Vista looks for workers who have leadership potential and innate analytical abilities.

Using a personality test first developed by IBM that gauges technical and social skills, as well as a candidate’s interest in the arts and humanities, Vista assembles a decidedly unusual work force. Last year, the firm used the test to pare down more than 125,000 job applicants and offered just 6,000 jobs, often to unlikely candidates.

One of Vista’s best software salesmen used to be a roofer. Another previously worked at a Verizon store, and went to making $240,000 a year, from $22,000. In Iowa, a pizza deliveryman took the Vista aptitude test, got an A, and was offered a job paying $43,000 annually.

Not only are many of these workers less expensive than their better-credentialed peers, but to Mr. Smith, they are often more driven to succeed. And employing them, he believes, provides a social good.

“We find those kind of people and put them to highly productive use for decades,” Mr. Smith said.

Vista says turnover at its companies is the lowest in the software business. After Vista acquires companies, Mr. Smith says, they release more reliable software more frequently, customer satisfaction rises and profitability improves. And most Vista companies have 25 percent to 60 percent margins, he adds.

Vista’s portfolio is a long list of unsexy software companies, most of which I have never heard of. Aptean is a “leading provider of industry-specific solutions that help businesses manage their resources, supply chains, employees, and customer relationships.” But Vista has made a great deal of money, returning a 31% annual rate of return since 2000. The firm has never lost money on over 110 investments and acquisitions. An amazing untold story.

It’s uncertain what the path forward is for Tibco, but I will be watching with intense interest to see what Smith is up to, in the years ahead.

Slack acquires Spaces, a document co-editor

Work chat company Slack has announced its first acquisition, part of the company’s efforts to build out a broader suite of productivity capabilities. Spaces, a two-person start-up, has been working on co-editing app — a la Google Docs — and Stewart Butterfield told me by email that they aren’t issuing new accounts at present, since they are ‘tearing up the roads’ to get Spaces technology integrated into Slack.

He promises a demo once the technology is ready for outside eyes.

Etsy acquires French handmade ecommerce company A Little Market

Online marketplace Etsy, which has made its name in selling handmade goods from independent vendors, announced on Monday that it acquired A Little Market — an ecommerce shop based in France that also focuses on handmade goods. The Wall Street Journal reported that the acquisition is the largest from Etsy to date, although the terms of the deal have not been disclosed. The company says that A Little Market will continue to function independently, providing domestic goods in France. The company has been on a bit of a buying spree, as it acquired technology ecommerce company Grand St. in April of this year.

Google buys Divide

Last October, Google invested $12 million in a series B round, betting on a start-up called Enterproid. That company changed its name to Divide, and last week Google took the next step and acquired the company, which makes a popular iOS and Android app for securing confidential business information on mobile devices.

Divide provides more that file sync-and-share, offering a secure connection to email, contacts, and calendar information, as well as other data accessed through partners’ offerings. Obviously, these offerings include Google’s, like Gmail, Google Calendar, and Hangouts.

iPhone_homescreen1

Google’s reasoning here is pretty obvious: the company is trying to strengthen its position in the enterprise marketplace for BYOD solutions. The terms of the deal were not disclosed, and the team will be joining Google’s mobile team.

Divide has a free version, and a $60 per year solution that offers administrative controls, like remote wipe of data.

This acquisition is an effort by Google to respond to growing competition in the marketplace, like Dropbox’s recent announcement of a two-headed client, allowing users to manage both personal and business files in one account (see Dropbox for Business is only the start: next, work management and office apps).

Note that Divide has integrations with a wide range of companies, including Box, and through a partnership with Averail Divide has connections to Sharepoint, Dropbox, Salesforce.com and Office365. Another partnership with MobiSystems means that Divide customers can view and edit Office documents with OfficeSuite.

Secure management of company information on mobile devices is the cutting edge of the challenge for enterprise IT today. There is nothing that can support the needs of a mobile workforce more than the ability to perform critical work on smartphones and tablets, and nothing that frightens IT administrators more. That’s why Google moved ahead and acquired the small start up it had invested in.

Intralinks acquires docTrackr, stepping on Box’s toes

Yesterday, Intralinks, the enterprise content management and collaboration vendor, announced that it had acquired docTrackr, the innovative security and digital rights management (DRM) technology company. The DRM solution will be integrated into Intralinks products by May, I was told by company representatives.
The DRM approach is unique in that the management of the documents is built-in, and can’t be circumvented by moving documents from controlled or secure storage.
One wrinkle that some others reporting on the story haven’t talked about is the fact that the docTrackr buy is a blow for Box. Ben Kepes is onto that angle at Forbes, saying

This acquisition is obviously a bit of a broadside on Box who last year gave docTrackr a bit of love on their own blog.

Kepes went on to ask Box executives some questions:

I questioned Box’s CIO Ben Haines on just how reliant the company is on docTrackr for this functionality. When I asked for a simple confirmation that Box is entirely reliant on docTrackr for DRM, Haines replied simply:

I cannot confirm or deny that

Hmmm. Helpful. Box’s communications maven Ashley Mayer gave more color telling me that while docTrackr is a valued DRM partner for Box, the company has other partnerships and some native capabilities in the area as well. Did Intralinks just steal Box’s lunch? And what impact will this have on its upcoming IPO? Hmmmm, watch this space.

In my discussion with Intralinks regarding Box fumbling a deal that seems central to their business, they hinted that Box had been involved in discussions but docTrackr opted to take Intralinks’ offer. Seems like a misstep, at the very least, if not a black eye.