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Top 25 Waterloo Technology Acquisitions – Wisdom from the Data

by Randall on February 8, 2015 · 2 comments

Posted in: Business Strategy,Entrepreneurism,Investing,Management,Randall Howard,Software,Startups,Web

The acquisition of MKS by PTC in 2011, caused me to reflect a bit on what good acquisitions might look like and what they might teach us about building (sometimes elusive) long term shareholder value. As a result, over the last 6 months, I’ve progressively assembled a collection on the most significant acquisitions in the Waterloo area. To my knowledge, such information has hitherto never been collected. We all love to speculate, but it is more productive to ground that speculation with facts.

The following table is intended to summarize value creation through the lens of several key benchmarks.

RankCompanyAcquirorAcquisition Price
(UIS$ millions)
Date AcquiredDate FoundedCompany Age
(years)
EmployeesLTM Sales
($US Million)
NOTESPrice/SalesRevenue/EmpCAGR$/Employee
1PixstreamCisco369December 21, 2000199641965.4268.327 55147.21.88
2DalsaTeledyne Technologies341February 14, 2011198031100020031.7200 0000.850.34
3MKSPTC - Parametric304May 31, 2011May 1, 198427360754.1208 3330.960.84
4Mitra ImagingAGFA Healthcare252January 3, 20021990124005045125 0003.380.63
5BluegillCheckfree250April 28, 20001996415020512.5133 33368.571.67
6UnitronPhonak91November 22, 200019653530062.661.5208 6670.670.30
7SlipStreamRIM91June 1, 2006200061201377108 33314.330.76
8Tsavo MediaCyberplex75June 10, 20102001?912011080.7916 6676.830.63
9WATCOMPowersoft74February 11, 1994198113100899.380 0002.40.74
10LivePageJanna Systems68September 20, 19991990?9121106883 3333.645.67
11EMJSynnex Canada64July 14, 2004197925350303120.2865 7141.180.18
12DspfactoryAMI Semiconductor51September 9, 20041998675163.2213 33314.870.68
13MapleSoftCybernet Systems49.8September 1, 2009April 30, 1988215012134.1240 0001.171.00
14PrinterOnSamsung40September 2, 201420001450104200 0002.150.80
15SS TechnologiesWoodhead Industries35July 31, 1998199177550140.7666 66711.60.47
16ReqwirelessGoogle322001June 23, 190541513266 667302.13
17TribeHRNetSuite30October 22, 201320094244.5186.7187 500451.25
18GBGHighJump Software26November 1, 200619911520022111.2110 0002.090.13
19PostRankGoogle25June 3, 2011March 1, 20074200n/mn/mn/m1.25
20Kaparel (Pixstream)Rittal21December 10, 200019964307.1173236 66750.620.7
21VideoLocusLSI Logic20November 14, 2002May 1, 20012170n/mn/mn/m1.18
22RapidMindIntel19August 19, 2009200452536.3120 000180.76
23BufferBoxGoogle17.5December 30, 201220112100n/mn/mn/m1.75
24Software MetricsEquitrac8February 1, 2000September 1, 1992835316n/mn/mn/m0.23
25Volker CraigNABU5.9198119738455.91131 82760.47
TOTAL236411.163779982.511.5259 99815.80.62

NOTES:

  1. Sources: public records, internet, personal recollections and interviews with 25 key ecosystem participants. In the interests of data utility, I welcome any revisions or comments regarding accuracy or completeness.
  2. All data are “normalized” into US Dollars, using an exchange rate current on the date of the acquisition. The use of US$ reflects the fact that most technology companies are really valued in US$ and hence that makes comparisons, both across the data and to other jurisdictions, more meaningful.
  3. The sample set is limited to my sense of what a technology company is – your mileage may vary.
  4. Acquisition PRICE includes cash, stock and post deal incentives, including earn outs.
  5. Several companies were re-acquired after the first acquisition (e.g. WatCom and LivePage). These follow on transactions are not reflected in this data.
  6. Some companies spun out several acquisitions, such as Kaparel which was sold out of Pixstream or SS Technologies, originally spun out of Sutherland Shultz.
  7. AGE represents the time in years from founding to the (first) acquisition.
  8. EMPLOYEES is the world wide count.
  9. SALES, given the high growth nature of many of these businesses, levels generally reflect the run rate at acquisition, rather than purely using an LTM (“Last Twelve Months”) measure.

CONCLUSIONS

The above data suggests a lot of trends and insights. It contains a wealth of insights, and also the individual narratives of each of these companies is, in itself, worthy of more discussion and analysis. In aggregate, however, the data suggest some key ideas to me:

  1. Acquisition prices are a great proxy for long term shareholder value, precisely because leading global technology companies provide an informed, third party valuation that likely has way more science than most earlier stage technology company valuation.
  2. Building larger companies takes time. The myth of the “quick flip” startup is (mostly) just that.
  3. As I discuss in my next post, building major technology companies is hard. We don’t (yet) seem to have “cracked the code” on this and need to learn how to build more over time.
  4. The aggregate scale of these companies, at the time of their acquisition, is materially significant to our region – almost 4 000 employees and almost $1 billion in revenue.
  5. Companies take much longer to build than most would expect. While the range in ages from 2 to 35 years is quite diverse, the average age of 11.2 years shows the time, resources and hard work to build real businesses.
  6. Acquisitions are good for our economy. Many people consider acquisitions to be a bad thing, but for those companies that were already at reasonable scale, most have continued to grow post acquisition. In addition to the wealth generated and its spinoffs, the acquirors bring new ideas and often jobs to our region. This is yet another reason why building larger technology companies is so important.

I am hoping that this data collection regarding acquisitions, and my initial take on conclusions, might stimulate further discussion around the notion of building significant value in businesses.

Please feel free to comment, or even contact me, with insights, questions and corrections.

About Randall

Randall Howard is a serial entrepreneur and long term technologist with a passion for social innovation.

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