Reflecting on the list of publicly traded B2B SaaS companies from yesterday, it’s clear that over the past few years, companies that reached scale and went public were more likely to be acquired if they focused on selling to large companies (enterprises) as opposed to ones selling into the small-to-medium sized business segment. Companies like ExactTarget, Eloqua, and Responsys are all in the email marketing space, which is white hot (and just had another nice exit with IBM buying Silverpop and closing the transaction today). If you go back another year you have SuccessFactors and Taleo both getting acquired, and both targeting the enterprise with HR software.
Here are a few thoughts on why enterprise-focused startups are more likely to be acquired:
- Companies targeting the enterprise with scale have an easier time maintaining a fast growth rate due to the nature of high dollar sales (if each new deal is $200k/year in annual recurring revenue, it’s easier to put a bunch more feet on the street and pound the pavement to bring in more deals as compared to trying to sign the equivalent number of small businesses)
- Large acquirers are more prevalent in the enterprise-focused space (think of Oracle, SAP, Salesforce.com, etc vs Intuit, etc), and once a category is declared strategic and an acquisition is made, the big competitors start circling the remaining players
- CIOs and executive-level technical buyers communicate more with the large acquirers since they purchase so many different products whereas many SMB products are bought via a credit card by line-of-business managers
Again, this is anecdotal evidence based on a limited number of public market acquisitions. As for building an SMB or enterprise-focused SaaS company, I’d go after whatever market has the most opportunity. Regardless, publicly traded enterprise-focused SaaS companies are more likely to be acquired.
What else? What are some other reasons why enterprise-focused public SaaS companies are more likely to be acquired?