With an expected valuation of close to $100 billion, it’s understandable that no one can stop talking about Facebook’s initial public offering this week. But while Facebook basks in the social media spotlight, companies tackling tough business problems are exciting investors, if not consumers. Workday, for example, is expected to be among the largest IPOs this year in the business software market.
Founded in 2005, the Pleasanton, California-based Workday makes payroll, accounting and human resources management software available over the Internet to 280 corporations, including big names like Time Warner, Kleenex-maker Kimberly-Clark and giant electronics manufacturer Flextronics. So far, Workday has raised $250 million from venture capital firms and other investors.
Dave Duffield Strikes Again
The company is the brainchild of David Duffield and Aneel Bhusri. Duffield, cofounder and chief executive of PeopleSoft, was forced to sell the company to Oracle in 2005 for $10 billion in a hostile takeover. Duffield and Bhusri, who was vice chairman of PeopleSoft, decided that same year to start rebuilding their company in the cloud.
As of the end of 2011, Workday had more than $300 million in revenue and an estimated value of $2 billion, AllThingsD reported last week. The company expects to launch its IPO in the fourth quarter with the help of bankers Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs, Allen & Company and JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Ironically, while the hype has focused on high-profile consumer and social-media IPOs, business-focused tech companies may be a better bet. On the consumer side, as of Friday, the stock of online game maker Zynga had fallen 25% from its IPO price in December last year. Stock of coupon site Groupon has dropped 50% since November 2011.
But Jive Software, which makes social business tools, has seen its stock climb 50% from its IPO price in December 2011. Stock in Guidewire Software, which serves the insurance industry, is up almost 60% since the company’s debut in January.
Workday is going after a market that is expected to soar. Worldwide revenue from delivering business software over the Internet is expected to reach $240 billion in 2020, a six-fold increase from 2010, according to Forrester Research.
Companies of all sizes are looking at cloud-based software because it’s often easier and less expensive than deploying and maintaining on-premise applications. In an interview with Bloomberg TV in April, Bhusri claimed Workday’s HR software is half the cost and is much easier to use. “There’s no reason enterprise software needs a training manual,” he said.
Early investors of Workday included Duffield and venture capital firms New Enterprise Associates and Greylock Partners, where Bhusri is a partner. In its last round of funding in December 2011, Workday raised $100 million from investors that included MSD Capital, owned by Dell founder Michael Dell, and Bezos Expeditions, the personal investment entity of Jeff Bezos, founder and chief executive of online retailer Amazon.
Workday is not without competition. German software maker SAP bought rival SuccessFactors last year for $3.4 billion, and Oracle is expected to either buy or develop its way into the HR cloud. In addition, analysts are wondering how long it will be before Workday partner Salesforce.com begins to add competing capabilities to its cloud-based software for sales reps and customer relationship management.
Despite the competition, Workday has built a solid business that investors and some analysts believe could make it a leading player in the HR software market – even though the general public has probably never heard of the company.
Everyone knows Facebook, of course, but analysts are debating whether a company with slowing revenue growth and a potential valuation of 99 times earnings can possibly live up to its hype.
Yahoo, Daniel Loeb and his Third Point LLC hedge fund did something that may become increasingly common as a result of new rules to increase shareholder oversight of publicly-traded companies.By using the threat of a proxy fight to win significant change at
And tech companies, with cultures that often clash with the straitlaced, profit-driven motives of Wall Street, seem particularly vulnerable to proxy fights. While Third Point’s power play – which resulted in three new board members and the company’s sixth CEO in five years — is expected to benefit shareholders, it is less clear what impact it will have on Yahoo employees or the people who still visit the Web portal more than half a billion times each month.
Earlier this month, Loeb released documents showing that CEO Scott Thompson had listed on his resume a degree in computer sciences that he had not earned. By last week, International Game Technology CEO Patti Hart said she would not seek reelection to Yahoo’s board of directors after Loeb raised questions about her role in hiring Thompson. And by Sunday, Yahoo had reached a deal with Third Point that included Thompson’s resignation, a new chairman and seats for Loeb and three allies on Yahoo’s board.
The dustup, however, has far broader implications than a simple case of calling someone out on an embellished resume. It shows the considerable sway that hedge funds hold over the companies in which they invest, and how the Wall Street culture often clashes with the tech darlings into which they’ve put money.
When times are good, companies like LinkedIn and Groupon, which went public last year, and Facebook, which will go public later this week, benefit from the relationship. But when times are bad, the public companies quickly realize they are never completely in control of their operations. Experts also believe that the rise in shareholder activism is a direct result of hedge fund involvement, and investors, companies and customers can expect more activism going forward.
Hedge funds “are better at organizing people. They have tremendous resources, and proxy fights are one of their tools,” Franklin Allen, a finance professor at the Wharton School, said in an article on the school’s Web site. “Proxy fights are one way they can make money.”
Hedge Funds Profit Through Control
Even after Thompson’s resignation, Yahoo is continuing to investigate Thompson to see if his departure can be considered to be for cause, which would save the company millions of dollars in severance. It’s an abrupt about-face from just last week, when Yahoo called the Thompson’s listing of a degree from Stonehill College an “inadvertent error” that “in no way alters the fact that Mr. Thompson is a highly qualified executive with a successful track record leading large consumer technology companies.”
What happens now will be bottom-line driven. Wall Street analysts are already praising the shakeup, saying it would boost long-term growth prospects.
Loeb may push Yahoo to drop its patent lawsuits against Facebook, as Facebook has retaliated with what could be costly countersuits. As Richard MacManus noted Sunday, Loeb and Third Point will be fixated on boosting profits (and, by extension, their 5.6% stake in the company). That could ultimately mean selling off certain assets and streamlining Yahoo down to its core (and most lucrative) assets.
“I’m not entirely convinced that Daniel Loeb’s motivations are good for Yahoo long term,” MacManus wrote. “They seem more focused on making money for Wall Street shareholders than returning Yahoo to its roots of being a true innovative force on the Web.”
Given the context and Third Point’s true motives, it seems more and more as though Thompson is just a convenient casualty as opposed to the real target of Loeb’s attack.
While shareholders tend to vote with management, making proxy fights ineffective, Allen said that could change as they become more common. Allen said hedge funds aren’t opposed to stepping in and running the business.
“Mutual funds don’t want to run the business. If they don’t like something, they will just sell shares,” he said. “Hedge funds will try and run the business to improve the value of the firm. All shareholders can benefit.”
Scott Thompson photo courtesy of Yahoo.
A lot of founders out there are looking for their significant others. No, we’re not talking about love among the cubicles. We mean the search for a co-founder – someone to share your dreams, frustrations and late-night microwave popcorn.
If you’re a single founder, this is crucial. You need an Allen to your Gates, a Brin to your Page, because “starting a startup is too hard for one person,” notes startup guru and Y Combinator co-founder Paul Graham. He lists going solo as the leading cause of startup failure.
But never fear. Founder Dating is here. It’s a company that connects entrepreneurs.
It’s Not Just About Your Contact List
We know what you’re thinking. Why would you need such a service? You’ve already got lots of contacts in your iPhone. But that’s exactly why, says founder Jessica Alter: “You know a lot of people like you. But those are not the best people to start a company with you. You want people with complementary skill sets, so you get more done.”
Smart entrepreneurs know this. Founder Dating’s first mixer, at a bar in Palo Alto in 2009, attracted people like Adbrite founder Philip Kaplan, LiveOps founder Patrick McKenna, and Geni/Yammer/Xoom/Eventbrite founder Alan Braverman. Alter thinks at least a dozen companies have been launched by Founder Dating members since then.
“The criticism we get a lot is, ‘Oh, that’s just not how co-founders meet,’” she says. “But people said the same thing 10 years ago about online dating: ‘You don’t meet your significant other online.’ Till now, co-founders have not found each other online, because this kind of service wasn’t available.”
In addition to its events – in the Bay Area, New York, Boston, Seattle, Los Angeles and Austin – Founder Dating has a site where members can search for other entrepreneurs by location, skills and interests. To join, you have to answer a bunch of questions about yourself and give references. And they don’t take just anybody: Only 55 out of 500 applicants were accepted for a San Francisco mixer earlier this year.
Craigslist Casual Encounters, this is not. “We screen very closely so we maintain a high quality of people on the site,” Alter says. “They’re coming out of great companies and great schools. They have high intent, and they’re ready to jump now.”
If you’re also ready to take the leap, check it out. You don’t even need your own idea. “We prefer people who don’t come in with an idea, because ideas change,” says Alter.
She describes a typical Founder Dater this way: “You haven’t started meaningful work on anything yet, you’re probably still at Google or Facebook, but you’re ready to leave and get something started.”
You just need someone to start it with.
Zynga CEO Mark Pincus was a four-time entrepreneur with no experience in the game industry. Yet in five short years, he has created a game industry giant with dedicated users. Zynga has doubled its revenues this year. Today it holds the top five games on Facebook DAU: CityVille (10,110,000), CastleVille (8,100,000) and FarmVille (7,200,000), Texas HoldEm Poker (6,300,000) and Words With Friends (5,700,000).
Zynga filed its updated S-1 on December 2. It will issue 100 million shares of Class A common stock at prices of $8.50 to $10 per share and will list on Nasdaq as ZNGA. The underwriters are Morgan Stanley, BofA Merill Lynch, Allen & Company LLC, Barclays Capital, Goldman Sachs and J.P. Morgan. Zynga’s initial public offering would be the largest IPO from a U.S. Internet company since Google’s $1.7 billion in 2004.
In Zynga’s “Our Vision for Play,” the company notes that games have grown to become the second most popular online activity in the United States by time spent, “even surpassing email.”
Today, Zynga has 227 million average monthly active users, or MAUs, in 175 countries. It has generated over $1.5 billion in cumulative revenue and over $2.0 billion in cumulative bookings since its inception in 2007.
Zynga sees the these three trends as key to its growth: growth of social networks, emergence of the app economy and rapid growth of free-to-play games. It had a gross revenue of $828,863 ending the third quarter on September 30, 2011, with a net income of $30,689.
Zynga CEO Mark Pincus told Reuters that he believes it can double the number of paid players which make up only 3% of users, or 227 million monthly users. These players buy virtual items such as houses and tractors.
The popular mobile game “Words With Friends” has gone up from 2 million to 10 million users in just one year. It got some extra attention last week from Alex Baldwin, who got kicked off an American Airlines flight for refusing to stop playing Words With Friends on his iPhone. He went on Saturday Night Live dressed as an American Airlines captain and issued an apology to himself.
BusinessWeek reported that people with knowledge of the situation confirmed that Zynga had already received orders to cover all the shares sold in its initial public offering.
Zynga aims to conquer the $9 billion virtual goods market, and is also looking to mobile game growth on Facebook, which accounts for 95% of Zynga’s revenue.
The marsh-loving song sparrow uses its beak to stay cool.
Whatâ€™s the News: Scientists have long known that the size and shape of a birdâ€™s beak is largely dependent on its diet. A hummingbirdâ€™s long, thin beak, for example, allows it to reach deep down into a tubular flower to get nectar. But in a new study in the journal Ecography, scientists have found that birds in warm climates have evolved beaks larger than their cooler-climate counterparts as a means of staying cool (birds, like most animals, donâ€™t sweat). The new study adds weight to past research suggesting the same thing.
Whatâ€™s the Context:
- Allenâ€™s Rule, a scientific theory coined by zoologist Joel Asaph Allen in 1887, states that warm-blooded animals will have longer appendages in hotter climates than those living in colder climates. The greater surface area allows the animals to give off more heat and keep cool.
- A study last year showed that the rule may apply to birdsâ€™ beaks, too. Researchers compared the bills of over 200 species of birds across the globe and found that the temperature of the birdsâ€™ climates can explain 16 percent of beak size variation.
- In 2009, Canadian researchers learned that toucans can alter the flow of blood to their beaks at will, allowing them to either release heat or stay warm.
How the Heck:
- In the current study, researchers at the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Center studied the beaks of 1,380 sparrows living in tidal salt marshes. The ten species of sparrows that the researchers looked at came from across the U.S., had similar diets (mostly insects and grasses), and lived in similar habitats. The only major difference between the animals was the temperature of their home environments.
- The team found that the size of the sparrowsâ€™ beaks varied greatly depending on the average summer temperature of their marshesâ€”some sparrows had beaks 90 percent larger than their counterparts living in cooler marshes. In all, the researchers found that differences in average summer temperatures accounted for up to 89 percent of the variation in sparrow beak size.
The Future Holds: Greenberg and his team are now studying thermal images to get a better understanding of how birds use their beaks to cool down.
Image courtesy of Dave W. / Flickr
Speaking at a press event on Thursday at the Allen & Co conference in Sun Valley, Idaho, former Google CEO and now Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt gave a 70 minute talk to the relatively few reporters that are here about various topical Google issues, including the most topical of Google issues, the launch of Google+.
When asked by a reporter how he would gauge the success of Google+ Schmidt replied, validly, “Well it’s been out for a week!” before going on to say that the biggest marker of its success was the fact that “An infinite amount of people are unhappy because they don’t have their invitation.” He later went on to say that the amount of people who had invitations but weren’t let in because of high demand was the greatest problem the service was facing. “We’re reviewing it on Monday,” he said.
Schmidt also seemed pleased that people seemed to understand that Google+ was different than Facebook.
“Circles is particularly well suited to the contact list you have in your phone, we have a somewhat different view of privacy. We tried to build a system that you could use for the relationships over time. The people who built the Internet did not get a stable version of identity; You need identity, in the sense that you are a person, this is who you are these are your friends and so on … The issue on the Internet is not the lack of Facebook, the issue on the Internet is the lack of identity. “
When asked by reporters whether Google planned eventually to fill out Google+ with other products, Schmidt answered, “Yeah, and there’s a lot coming,” saying that business accounts and ads are expected, assuming Google+ continues to grow. ”We test stuff and when it works we put a lot more emphasis on it,” he said.
When pressed to reveal how many people were part of the Google+ beta currently Schmidt replied, “I don’t know but it’s a lot.”