Article from Silicon Valley Business Journal.
His Menlo Park firm focuses on later-stage venture and growth equity investments, so it’s not the small fry they have their eyes on.
IVP is looking for startups that already have $20 million to $30 million in revenue and the potential to grow that by tenfold or more.
The firm had several big exits last year, including the $223 million IPO of CafePress and the $745 million sale of Buddy Media to Salesforce.
Harrick took some time to speak to me this week about the startups that are exciting him today and why IVP often remains an investor long after a startup has gone public.
Here are excerpts from that conversation:
There has been a lot said about a shift away from social and consumer-focused startups since Facebook’s IPO last year. What does that mean at Instiutional Venture Partners?
IVP has always invested in enterprise companies and we’ve been investing since 1980. We’re on our 14th fund, IVP-14. It’s a billion-dollar fund and we’re just beginning to invest that.
But enterprise has always been a mainstay of our investment effort. It ebbs and flows with budgets and where we see growth. But right now we’re seeing a lot of good activity in the enterprise space, a lot of innovation being brought to bear and the opportunity for new high-growth companies. So we’re actively investing there.
Can you tell me a little bit about the companies that are exciting to you right now from your portfolio?
There are a number of them. The most recent investment was AppDynamics. AppDynamics does application performance management. It’s really a very exciting area. The company allows anybody that’s creating an application to bug test it, to test it for security, to see if it can support high volume loads, all while they are designing the application.
The reason that this is such an interesting space is that every enterprise has applications that reach out to customers that they use internally and that they connect to partners with. It’s a real competitive edge for companies that do it correctly.
All the old stuff doesn’t support mobile. It doesn’t support the latest programming techniques. It’s long in the tooth. The market has been desperate for a more modern solution and AppDynamics really delivers that. We were really impressed with the growth the company has shown and just the massive demand for the product offering.
A lot of our portfolio companies were already using AppDynamics. That’s how we found out about the company and it’s a space that right now is at about $ 2 billion market size. It’s growing and it’s a very good management team. So we’re excited to be part of it.
Another one I understand you invested in last year is Aerohive.
Oh, yeah. David Flynn is the CEO over there. It’s a great company to watch in Sunnyvale. It’s a next generation Wi-Fi company. What Aerohive did very early on is it realized that a controller can be costly and also is a choke point for an enterprise deployment. If your controller goes down, you can’t change configurations. A lot of the old vendors had built a lot of cost around the controllers, which increased the cost of deployment for a customer.
Aerohive took that controller and put it in the cloud. You can manage your Wi-Fi deployments remotely from any computer. It doesn’t go down and their Wi-Fi deployments are enormously successful at scale. They’ve got a lot of enterprise and education and government customers. It’s a business that more than doubled last year and really one to watch going forward.
Are you finding a lot more company these days looking at the enterprise and B2B space than there were a couple of years ago?
Enterprise budgets have come back. People are recognizing that they have to refresh their technologies. They’ve got a lot of new demands in terms of supporting new trends in the enterprise.
Take another one of our companies for example, MobileIron. It is a software company that solves the bring-your-own-device problem for businesses. People are bringing iPhones and Android phones into the enterprise and they’re viewing enterprise information. They’re putting things in a Dropbox account and they’re leaving with it.
IT can’t control that and that is a big problem, particularly when you want to maintain rights and provisioning and state-of-the-art security and be able to track confidential information.
So MobileIron’s products allow you to do all that. It allows you to push out patches, security, rules and provisioning. It allows you to take control of a mobile environment in the enterprise.
Five, six, seven years ago, this wasn’t a problem. It just wasn’t happening. Now, it is and it is being driven by consumer behavior that has flown over to the enterprise.
So people are saying, I have a budget for this. I have to spend. We have to be on top of these issues or it’s going to be a big problem for us.
You know those kinds of trends are really unstoppable.
Are there other trends you are watching?
Another is Wi-Fi, which is being kind of taken for granted, how to be able to connect if I’m visiting your company or I’m in your auditorium or I’m having lunch in your corporate cafeteria. These are all things you need to have infrastructure for. You need to do it cost effectively. So these fund-smart entrepreneurs are seeing an opportunity and people are spending for it.
As a venture capitalist, we look for those tailwinds in terms of budget because that allows you to grow. It accelerates the sale cycle. It becomes less of a missionary sale and that’s how you have rapid growth in businesses. It is different from five or six years ago. There are a lot of people paying attention to it.
There is a lot said about the consumerization of IT, the trend where shifts in consumer technology is requiring IT departments and enterprises to change how they do things.
It’s a massive change in behavior. Enterprises are organizations that are comprised of employees that have jobs to do. Their behaviors change and the enterprises have to change with them.
There is also a lot of talks about what is being described as Network 2.0, involving things like software-controlled networking and flash storage. Are you guys involved in that at all?
On the network side, a lot of that is cloud computing and services around the data center. We are involved in that.
We invest in a company called Eucalyptus Systems, which is the leader in hybrid cloud deployment. They allow you to manage and test software on your own premises and switch seamlessly back and forth between Eucalyptus and the Amazon Cloud.
Cloud computing is still an area where people are trying to figure out exactly what their needs and specs are. It’s still early in the market. But there have been some large successes that have kind of changed behavior.
Salesforce is one of those. Salesforce is widely deployed. It really took customer relationship management and managing your sales force to the cloud. They’ve offered additional cloud applications and people have gotten used to paying by subscription.
That’s also a change from seven or eight years ago, when everything was license dominated. The old world was you paid for licensing and maintenance, 80-20. That was what you paid.
Those are perpetual licenses and they were often expensive. Sometimes, they were underutilized or never deployed and the world gradually shifted to paying on subscription.
Customers like it because they say, hey, if I’m not using it, I can turn it off. I don’t have to renew.
The vendors like it because it’s a more predictable revenue stream. You’re no longer biting your nails at the end of each quarter to figure out if you’re going to get those two or three deals that are going to make or break your quarter.
You get a lot of smaller deals that recognize revenue monthly and that provide a more predictable business and that have been a reward in the public markets. Networking and application functionality is being delivered that way now. The economics have changed and I think that is a very exciting trend. I think it leads to more sane management for software businesses.
How about the security? Are you into that at all?
We are. We were investors in ArcSight, which Hewlett-Packard bought. That was an example of a dashboard for enterprise security.
We’ve been involved with a number of other security companies. I think two to watch are Palo Alto Networks and FireEye. We aren’t investors in either of those, but they’re both very good companies. We’re looking at a lot of security companies currently.
The challenge with security is that it can often be a point solution and a small market. To be a standalone security company, you really have to have a differentiated broad horizontal functionality that could stand on its own.
You can’t have customers saying, I want that, but it’s a feature and should be delivered with a bunch of other things. A lot of small companies fall into that trap in security.
So we’re on the lookout for the broader security places that you know really can get the $50 million, $75 million or $100 million revenue.
Have there been any companies that you passed on that you wished maybe in retrospect you hadn’t? The ones that got away?
Yeah, you know, there always are. That would be the anti-portfolio. You run into those things and you try to see what you learn from it. Sometimes, they’re very hard to anticipate.
We passed on Fusion-io, the Salt Lake, Utah, flash drive memory company. They have done well, but I think they have fallen off recently in the public markets. That one would be in the anti-portfolio.
We also looked at Meraki. Cisco bought them for $1.2 billion, more than 10 times revenue. It’s hard to predict when somebody’s going to buy a company at that kind of multiple. We believe Aerohive is the superior company. That’s why we invested in Aerohive instead of Meraki. You can’t really invest in both. They’re competitors.
Then there was Yammer, which was acquired for $1.2 billion. That was also a company we were familiar with, good technology acquired for huge multiple of sales and it was hard to predict that happening, too. So I wish all those guys well. Sometimes you miss on big returns like thoses, but we like the investments that we have made.
What is it that you’re looking for at the top of your list when you’re considering a company that you might invest in?
Well, you know, the old adages in venture capital have some merit in them. But things change and you can’t rely too much on just pattern recognition. There’s always seismic shifts in technology where old assumptions have been disproven. You have to adapt to those.
But the adages that do hold are quality of management. We really look for companies and management teams that can take a company to $50 million to $500 million in revenue.
That’s a very mature skill set. They have to show the ability to hire, the ability to supplement the businesses, to attract great board members and to build a company that can be public.
There are a lot of demands on being public today. The industry is still dominated by mergers and acquisitions, as it always has been, for exits. Probably about 80 percent of the exits happen from M&A.
But we really look to exceptional management teams that we can be in business with for many, many years.
How does being a later stage investor change what you are looking for?
We have a long-time horizon for investment. We often hold after a company goes public and even invest in the company after it’s gone public. That’s in our charter.
So we really look for these management teams that are really exceptional and deep.
As a late stage investor, you can’t really invest in small market opportunities. The early stage can do that, and they can exit nicely. You know they can invest $10 million valuation, the company sells for $60 million and they do great.
When you’re investing at a later stage, you know looking for companies that have $20 million or $30 million of revenue so the valuation is higher and you have to get these companies to a higher exit value to get a great return.
So you have to able to identify large market opportunities and AppDynamics, Aerohive, MobileIron, Spiceworks, all have really large market opportunities. That’s why we’re excited about them.
Interviewer: Tell me a little bit more about the philosophy of holding on to companies after they’ve gone public.
Our perspective is that going public is a financing event. It’s also a branding event for a company. It raises awareness. It creates liquidity in the stock.
But valuations fluctuate with market conditions. We say this is just the beginning of growth. That valuation that it’s at now may not be the right place to exit .
If you look back historically, venture capitalism left a lot of money on the table by exiting companies prematurely. You know if you exited when Microsoft or Apple or Cisco went public, you probably left a 10X, 20X, or 50X return on the table by doing so.
Obviously, that requires a lot of judgment. Not every company is going to be an Apple or a Cisco.
So that’s a judgment call and when we make the judgment that there’s a lot of growth ahead and the current valuation doesn’t reflect that, we’re happy holders. We establish price targets for exit and when it reaches that price target, we make a new assessment.
We do have to exit eventually, but we raise 10-year funds and our holding period is typically 3 to 5 years and then oftentimes its 5, 7, 8 years.
Is there a specific example to illustrate this from your portfolio?
Sure. One would be HomeAway. HomeAway is a remarkable business. People list homes on the website. If you’re traveling with your two kids, you get a home for 800 bucks for the week and you would’ve paid 500 bucks a night for a hotel. It’s a great service. It’s public. We invested, my gosh, about five years ago and we’re still holding that stock.
Read more here.