Insight. Impact. Action.
Since 2001, we’ve been engaging with Technology, Media, and Telecommunications (TMT) companies globally; from emerging companies to large multinationals. They either need to become relevant or stay relevant. Sometimes we work for the CEO, sometimes at the behest of the Board of Directors. Often times we get called by PE and VC firms. Other times our work is for a GM/VP. Different Verticals. Different Geographies. Different Project Sponsors. We’re pretty certain we’ve already seen a growth challenge like the one you’re facing right now.
We hope the 12 case studies on the left give you some flavor of the variety of results-oriented objective strategic counsel we provide – though all our Client work has one thing in common – relentless focus on the growth of their business.
We’re in the advice business, and we believe the best advice must meet three distinct criteria; it must be Impactful, Insightful and Actionable. Think about it, providing your management team two out of three doesn’t help you, does it?
Click through our abbreviated case studies and get a feel for our work. Want more? Pick up the phone and call us, we’d be delighted to discuss.
Case 1 – Avocent
Avocent was a Huntsville, AL based technology company. Revenues were $650M when the acting CEO Ed Harper called us up in early 2008. We’d worked with Ed on three previous occasions as he was on several other Boards. Ed asked us if we’d come in – work closely with the Board and Management – and “validate” their growth strategy. We chuckled … We said we might “invalidate it” and make them think a bit harder about how to approach growth, but certainly would not rubber stamp anything. We both had a good laugh.
Our work at Avocent centered around a Board-level strategic review of the entire business (three divisions), culminating in our recommendation to break up the business due to divergent business units with very limited overlap. We also recommended that they acquire a small virtualization company. It was simply the best way to maximize shareholder value. Our recommendation was based on the view that an integrated go-to-market strategy across disparate business units simply doesn’t work without substantive leverage points (common buyer, common channel, effective bundles, pricing power, leveraged support, up-sell and cross-sell opportunities, etc.) Our recommendations weren’t based on ‘opinions’. We conducted 80+ detailed face-to-face interviews in North America, Asia and Europe with a variety of customers, channel partners, prospects, competitors, management, etc.
Avocent was acquired by Emerson Electric in December 2009. Further to our recommendations, LANDesk was spun out (to Thoma Bravo) in August 2010 and is now a privately held independent company.
Case 2 – VeriSign
VeriSign is a Silicon Valley based technology company. Publicly traded, it was one of the most acquisitive tech companies since the early 1990’s, purchasing over 35 companies, some of which were very large deals and positioned as “transformative game-changers.” A change of strategy with a more focused approach to the market meant that in the 2007 to 2009 timeframe VeriSign subsequently jettisoned 14 of these earlier acquisitions.
In early 2010, we were introduced by a mutual acquaintance to the Vice President of Strategy and Corporate Development at VeriSign. After a (mutual!) qualification meeting, we were engaged to work with the Corporate Development and Corporate Strategy teams, and some business unit executives to create “three strategic end-states.” We had about 12 weeks to design and refine several strategic alternatives to grow top-line revenue – with the objective of keeping VeriSign both growing and relevant. After a deep analysis, we provided fresh counsel on how to think differently about various adjacent market segments. We also reviewed and opined on a number of large acquisition targets aligned with both the strategic directions and the leverage of VeriSign’s core businesses.
Subsequently, VeriSign elected to sell off their SSL certificates business unit to Symantec in May 2010.
Case 3 – Anonymized
For a multi-billion dollar publicly traded software company, we worked with various senior executives and product groups to define a compelling Cloud-based product strategy. Their competitors had all launched Cloud initiatives and our client was late to the party. We were able to devise an approach that leveraged their current expertise and technology, while at the same time propelling them into the limelight with innovative offerings.
We helped them understand the white spaces, the competitive offerings and where their assets could be best leveraged and differentiated to deliver a unique value proposition. The good news is with a fast-follower strategy to market, they were able to avoid key mistakes the early entrance made.
Our client now has a viable Cloud offering in the market and is seen as a leader and innovator in its market space.
Case 4 – Anonymized
Our client was a top five security vendor whom we met via a mutual acquaintance. They had come to us with a very ambitious financial goal – articulating to us they desired to grow their business to Y billion dollars, by 20XX with, Z% profit margins. It was a very transparent financial objective for which we needed to engineer a growth execution to reach.
The project was centered on a Board-level “M&A preparation” initiative, helping the executive team think though a series of buy versus make decisions. The CEO was somewhat cynical about M&A, explaining that “investment bankers come into my office all the time telling me to buy companies to grow … yet, I’ve never found an investment bank that has grown via acquisitions!”
Our work resulted in this leading security vendor making three successful acquisitions and, at the same time, initiating key development projects in areas where new security sub-sectors were still nascent, yet promising.
Case 5 – Anonymized
We were contacted by a leading private equity firm, who had heard about our work for another private equity firm. Off the bat, they said they didn’t like to use consultants much and grilled us about various market spaces, tech companies and the issues they faced, etc. We must have stuck a chord with them. They called us back the following day and asked for a proposal.
Turns out they had already taken a sizeable position in a publicly traded software company, but wanted another opinion. They asked us to provide our views about the company, its products, the market space and entrenched competitors, management team, future growth prospects of the company and how/when to start thinking about exiting their position.
Our work with them resulted in devising a plan to effectively sell off their position over time in a measured way as they saw their share price continue to perform well. We also told them to call us next time BEFORE they take a position as it will give us a bit more leeway to maximize their investment!
Case 6 – BigFix
BigFix was a recently funded emerging stage startup when we were brought in by its first (non-founder) CEO, Steve Larsen. BigFix was a very small team when we first engaged with them.
Steve is a very pragmatic serial CEO (and ex Venture Capitalist) and knew that he needed a broad footprint in the market to be successful and to fuel the company’s growth. He also knew that he wasn’t going to get the kind of growth he needed solely by spending his own marketing dollars educating the market without the benefit of being in a broader ecosystem of strategic partners. Steve and the Board asked us to work closely with them on their go-to-market and channel strategy. As channels generally follow demand (and not create it), it was hard work to get channel partners interested and engaged with BigFix early on, but we were able to build the right ecosystem that ultimately became very successful. The work encompassed engaging with a handful of very strategic partners and was the basis of significant growth that BigFix subsequently experienced.
IBM acquired BigFix for $370M in August 2010.
Case 7 – MX Logic
MX Logic was an Englewood, CO based SaaS security company. Led by its two passionate co-founders – CEO John Street and CTO Scott Chasin – they had a compelling vision about what SaaS security was going to look like a few years out. They were truly an innovative company and passion and dedication permeated everything the organization did.
We worked closely with John, Scott, the Board and various senior executives on very broad set of sales, marketing, channel and business/corporate development activities over a 6-year period (from 2004 to 2009). Although we worked with nearly every VP on a variety of different projects, they all had one trait in common: to help MX Logic grow significantly faster than the already fast growing market they were in.
MX Logic was acquired by McAfee in September 2009 for $140M, and is now the core SaaS security offering of McAfee.
Case 8 – Anonymized
This publicly traded software vendor was on a $100M revenue run-rate and had just hired a new leadership team. Growth was anemic, the company was tired with a depressed share price, and some private equity firms were itching to come in and take control.
The new COO reached out to us and asked if we could help them think through some strategic alternatives as well as look at several specific product issues. We led a Board-mandated project to identify various growth options for the company. Analyzing several adjacent market spaces with a view to reinvigorate the company’s product and go-to-market strategy, we laid out a series of unique acquisitions as well as catalyze a handful of internal product development initiatives.
One acquisition was made and two key internal product development initiatives were launched based on our recommendations. The company is growing again and being rewarded in the financial markets accordingly.
Case 9 – Anonymized
This privately held software company had been around for over 10 years and done several rounds of VC financing. Growth was slow early on, but in the past recent few years, it started to accelerate. A prominent VC firm, who was an investor in the company, contacted us and asked for our opinion. The exam question was simple. They were getting close to an acquisition offer. Should they accept it or should they put more money in the company and ride it out? To keep it interesting, we agreed to not know any details about the offer on the table, apart from its existence. It didn’t matter if we knew the actual dollar amount or any of the terms. This is how the Board and the investors could receive true objective/independent counsel.
We came in and conducted a complete review of the business, helping them think though exiting now or investing additional capital and going for a higher risk adjusted return. The work was both critical and time sensitive; we had to work quite quickly. After a thorough analysis of various elements: recent exits and valuation multiples, current product roadmap initiatives, competitive landscape and position in market share, management fatigue, TAMs/CAGRs, etc., we recommended they sell company if the offer was above a certain price that we calculated.
It turned out the offer put forward was approximately 35% more than our number. Investors and management were rewarded with a very lucrative exit at an excellent valuation multiple. This business now sits inside a much larger technology company and continues to do very well.
Case 10 – Anonymized
This tech company had IPO’d awhile back and was doing $200M in annual revenue. Impressive, but they were still fourth in a crowded market and didn’t seem to be breaking out ahead of the pack. They were largely keeping up with the market growth itself, but certainly now outgrowing the market (gaining market share on the competition).
We were retained by the Board to provide independent perspective how the company could achieve a dramatic growth objective in the next 24 months. There were symptoms inside this company that required further analysis. For instance, management told us their technology was both differentiated and innovative; and that was primary reason their customers purchased from them. Funny, we interviewed 30+ customers and no one said they purchased because of unique product attributes, they all described to us a commoditized offering. VP Sales showed us a 70% win rate on deals (# of deals closed annually). Impressive sounding, but when we double-clicked on it, it actually translated to only 44% of the revenue volume in the pipeline. In other words, they were getting the lower value deals in the pipeline and their competitors were consistently winning the bigger deals.
The project deliverable was six different growth scenario’s detailed – including combinations of organic and inorganic growth. Our work included acquisition recommendations, detailing an innovative and game-changing product strategy as well as a 50+ item management playbook to get them to their desired growth target.
Case 11 – Talend
Talend was less than five people when we first met them in Paris back in August 2006. We were immediately impressed by CEO Bertrand Diard’s view on how he could materially disrupt the data integration market with an innovative open source product combined with a new business model. The Talend team was ambitious, smart, differentiated and we knew they’d do well.
Bertrand and his management team engaged us to think about how to best enter the US market. He was impatient to depart France and get to Silicon Valley early and start building his dream. On his very first trip to the Valley to see us he rented a home in Palo Alto, called his wife (who was 7 months pregnant) and told her that they were moving to the US. This was a true entrepreneurial variant on the ‘burn the ships’ mentality. Once we helped establish the US growth strategy for Talend, we worked on channel and strategic partner development.
Talend is now 300+ employees, firmly headquartered in Silicon Valley and growing extraordinarily well.
Case 12 – Anonymized
This multi-billion dollar high-tech company has a complex channel – first imagine a three dimensional cube and label each axis: the X-axis is the product families they market, the Y-axis is the 200+ countries around the world they market and sell in and the Z-axis is the partner types that sell, distribute and OEM their products. Now imagine the volume of that cube filled with lots and lots of partners, basically all selling different things, in different languages to different size companies and at different margins.
Now imagine if you were the VP in charge of managing this dynamic channel complexity. Said VP called us with a very simple yet powerful statement of work: “Can you help my team figure out if we are managing the right partners?”
We worked closely with a variety of company executives on this important assignment, and it wasn’t initially easy to crack. We knew we had to put different optics on the problem than the usual “dump all the channel partners in a spreadsheet and sort by revenue contribution and margin” approach. We created a very novel and unique way for this vendor to get their arms around this very thorny issue. We looked at the problem in an unorthodox way, but delivered insights on growth no previous methodology or consulting firm had prior delivered to them.