Qlik-Talend proposed acquisition indicates marriage broker role for private equity?

The acquisition of France-based data integration supplier Talend by Sweden-founded data visualisation firm Qlik has to be interesting at an intra-European market level. Non-US IT suppliers are thin on the ground, so to behold two of them tying the marriage knot is noteworthy.

More of note, perhaps, is that both are owned by private equity firm Thoma Bravo.

At Computer Weekly our editorial mission is user centric, so we don’t dwell overly on what vendors do with each other, or how they get the money that does not come from customers. Nevertheless, the role of private equity – more so, arguably, than of venture capital, which tends to invest in potentially high-growth start-ups and scale-ups rather than established outfits that simply require more efficiency – in bringing together portfolios of firms in similar areas is under-examined – by us and by others. From the outside, it seems logical that a private equity firm would gather similar companies together, governed by an investment thesis, and seek to engineer synergies between them. Maybe even up to the point where one acquires another. But to what extent is it really like that?

I once interviewed David Murphy, in late 2018, when he was both an operating partner at Thoma Bravo and executive chairman of Apttus, a “quote to cash” company in which the private equity firm had acquired a majority stake. He told me about Thoma Bravo’s having an investment thesis around the automation of knowledge work, of which what he called the “intelligent middle office” was a part. The ownership of Qlik, Talend, and Apttus, among others, was a demonstration of that broad thesis.

The private equity firm also invested, more recently, in data catalog firm Alation, late in 2022. That was part of a $123 million in a Series E financing round which also involved Sanabil Investments, Costanoa Ventures and Databricks Ventures.

At the time, I asked Satyen Sangani, CEO and co-founder, Alation about the involvement of Thoma Bravo, and what the value of its investment was for his company.

He said: “I think Bravo, in particular, has been known to be a fabulous operational partner, as companies scale in their growth. They have a lot of scale, they have brand recognition and, more critically, they have expertise. And so, we were pretty excited to welcome them to the group because we felt like all three of those things could help us grow.

“I know that in this particular market, specifically within data integration, data intelligence, even business intelligence, they’ve been an active investor. They’ve got Qlik in the BI space. But then if you look in the data integration world, they’ve got Talend. And they have, I believe, invested in [analytics company] Starburst?”

But he said that rather than getting value from being part of a quasi-consortium of companies, the value of Thoma Bravo’s investment was more that the expertise it has built up from its involvement in the data management and business intelligence arenas will help the firm to advise his own company. “They’re independent companies [Thoma Bravo’s other investees], we’re independent companies”.  Nevertheless, he confirmed he and his team have spoken with the private equity firm about “accelerating some of those relationships [with the others] where relevant”.

In CW’s sister publication TechTarget’s Business Analytics site, Eric Avidon writes that “although Qlik already offers data integration capabilities, its acquisition of Talend nevertheless adds features that complement its existing tools”. He cites Donald Farmer, founder and principal of Treehive strategy, and an erstwhile leading executive at Qlik: “Talend describes their product as a unified data fabric, and I think that’s very attractive to Qlik as they increasingly position themselves not as a BI company with some data preparation but as a data platform company with an excellent front-end tool”.

And he added: “The proposed acquisition of Talend tells us very clearly [that] Qlik did good work with the Attunity acquisition, and the investors at Thoma Bravo have confidence that the company can execute another big integration. That’s a big endorsement of the team and the strategy”. [Attunity was an Israel-based data integration firm, which Qlik acquired for $560m in 2019].

Seth Boro, a managing partner at Thoma Bravo said of the proposed acquisition of Talend by Qlik: “We are excited about this proposal to have two of our leading portfolio companies join forces to accelerate the vision of making a difference in the world through data.

“The proposed combination of these two growing and profitable businesses, under the leadership of [Qlik CEO] Mike Capone, would have significant global scale and an unparalleled product portfolio”.

Talend’s CEO Christal Bemont was not quoted in the 5 January release announcing the proposed acquisition, which is expected to close during the first half of 2023. Her LinkedIn profile indicates she has since stepped down from the role. Kristin Nimsger Weston, Operating Partner at Thoma Bravo, is listed as interim CEO of Talend on the company’s leadership page.

Meanwhile, Qlik’s traditional rival in the data visualisation field, Tableau, seems to be sinking further into Salesforce, which laid off 10% of its staff in early January. As our colleague Avidon narrates: “in the two-plus years since Salesforce’s 2020 layoffs [which had little impact on Tableau, which Salesforce acquired in June 2019], there’s been an exodus of leadership from Tableau: Mark Jewett, senior vice president of product and partner marketing, in late 2021; Andrew Beers, CTO, in June 2022; and Mark Nelson, president and CEO, in December 2022”.

Whether or not Qlik’s parabola of development will be upwards and onwards with the union with Talend, as officiated by Thoma Bravo, remains to be seen. Will Qlik and Tableau, the pioneers of data visualisation, become merely interesting footnotes in the history of enterprise software?

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