The enterprise social network would do anything to avoid an IPO. And then along came Microsoft...
Yammer, based in San Francisco, is basically Twitter for business — although in the two roughly years since I regularly used it, it's evidently added some Facebook-esque features. It's been at the vanguard of "enterprise social networking," or bringing microblogging and social networking into the business environment. With the consumer space tapped out, this is where a lot of companies are looking to expand.
Or, in Microsoft's case, acquire. Just for perspective, $1.2 billion is FAT valuation for Yammer. Remember Instagram, the year-and-half old photo sharing site with 13 employees that Facebook bought on the eve of its IPO for $1 billion? Yeah, that seems so long ago now...
Yammer sold for a little more than one "Instagram," in the new parlance of Silicon Valley. But more importantly, Microsoft bought the company for all cash. Instagram, by contrast, was a cash-and-stock deal, mostly stock. So Yammer's investors, who had put about $150 million into the startup, are going to see a very large payday, composed of actual money that they can use to either buy a second yacht or turn around and pour into other startup investments.
The enterprise social network that will do anything to avoid an IPO.
With the frenzy surrounding Facebook's impending initial public offering later this year, you'd think that every startup ultimately wants to do that IPO voodoo. Not so. In fact, it's not clear that Facebook even wants to go public. It's just that it has to many private shareholders now that the SEC is kind of forcing it to. San Francisco-based Yammer is a similar if not exactly quite as lucrative story. Yammer is a sort of Twitter for business — an "enterprise social network." And it just secured a new $85 million venture round. Which it's thinking of as a virtual IPO. The best kind, as it means you don't have to do the actual IPO.
Even better, the business is starting to boom. This is from Forbes:
A few years ago many companies were skeptical of enterprise social networking, now it’s become much more common. Now the industry is in a land grab phase, Sacks says. “Five to ten years from now every company will have an internal social network and maybe an external one as well,” he says. “Five years from now not having a social network in a company will be like not having email or phones.”
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SAN FRANCISCO, CA - SEPTEMBER 14: (L-R) TechCrunch Founder and Co-Editor Michael Arrington,500 Startups Venture Capitalist & Founding General Partner David Mclure, Tasty Labs Co-Founder and CEO Aydin Senkut, Freestyle Capital Founding Partner Josh Felser, SoftTech VC Managing Partner Jeff Clavier, and SV Angel angel investor Ron Conway speak onstage at Day 3 of TechCrunch Disrupt SF 2011 held at the San Francisco Design Center Concourse on September 14, 2011 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Araya Diaz/Getty Images for TechCrunch)
If you aren't reading Fred Wilson, you should. He's a venture capitalist who runs Union Square Ventures in New York and regularly writes about being a VC at his aptly named blog, AVC. Many people who are pondering the woeful state of the U.S. economy are looking to tech as something that may lead us out of the woods. Problem is, tech costs money. And tech is extremely competitive. And there's been some discussion of late that VCs are having trouble raising money to fund new companies.
Wilson breaks it down. Here's what I think is his most interesting point:
5) The internet investing market is transitioning. Social was the driving force for the past three or four years. In the wake of Facebook and Twitter, how could it not be? Mobile has also been a hot theme. Both sectors have consolidated a few winners and a number of additional interesting emerging companies. But how many social platforms of scale will there be? Five, ten, twenty? And mobile is hard because distribution continues to be limited to the app store model where you get on the leaderboard and win or you don't and you don't. Investors are moving into new areas like cloud, peer to peer marketplaces, and trying to take what worked in consumer into the enterprise. There is no lack of interest in internet investing, but investors are having to learn new markets and new sectors. And that kind of transition takes the heat out of an overheated market.