For all the recent talk about the top of the funnel in the startup universe, both locally and nationwide, it’s nice when you get to talk about an exit—and make no mistake, there are a handful of companies in the Triangle, you know who I’m talking about, the ChannelAdvisors and the Appias, who are in the conversation, if not already in position, to either go public or get acquired for a significant sum of money.
So I’m totally speculating here, but Appia just hired veteran acquisition guru Tim Oakley as their CFO. In fact, they’re announcing this right now. Oakley’s most recent gig was CFO of iContact, who last year was acquired by Vocus for $167 million in one of the biggest such exits we’ve seen in the Triangle for ages. Further down his resume, he was CFO of CipherTrust, scooped up by Secure Computing for $274 million, and before that he was CFO of OpenSite, who went to Siebel for $542 million.
I’ve known Jud since his days at Motricity, in fact, I spent a little time there before moving on to start my own company (startups breed startups), and I can tell you this—Jud knows how to build great companies. He’s not one of these entrepreneurs who has his exit planned on day one. Or day two. Or for that matter year five. But if anyone can hit one out of the park, and Lord knows we could use a home run right about now, it’s Jud.
After buying a chunk of his technology out of Motricity, Jud founded Appia in 2008, acquired Handango in 2010, and then raised $15 million later that year. Since then, the company has been somewhat quietly bringing on huge customers, closed more funding in 2012, and has gotten themselves named to all kinds of best-of lists, all while growing the network and revenue at a steady pace.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. The Triangle startup ecosystem is evolving in front of our eyes. After three years of solid top-of-the-funnel growth, with literally hundreds of new startups springing up overnight, we’ve seen a number of companies raise Series A in the $1 million to $5 million range, and we’ve seen those companies prosper and grow. We saw Sharefile get acquired by Citrix and become an anchor for the downtown Raleigh scene, and with all of that activity has come culture, events, accelerators, meetups, there are options now.
But we can’t rest on our laurels. The spectre of the Series A Crunch and the continued lack of available funding continue to haunt the area. Seed stagers quietly disappear, and luckily it’s been a lose-one-gain-two type proposition. But all it takes is a small shift in the balance to make that equation go all pear shaped.
That’s where we need to start talking about those next steps, those Series Bs and big acquisitions and dare-we-dream go publics. Yeah, new startups will come out of the IBMs and the Red Hats and even the iContacts and the Sharefiles, and those newly-minted startups will be more likely to succeed quicker, louder, and draw even more attention, talent, and money to the Triangle. But they won’t come out of those companies as fast or as robustly as they will a Google, or a Yahoo, or a Facebook.
The Triangle needs more Googles and Yahoos and Facebooks. And soon.
So keep your eyes on moves like these and applaud them as loudly as you would a $1 million dollar raise by an accelerator graduate. If Bowman and Oakley can get Appia to that next level, and if they can do it in Durham, there’s no telling the positive impact that could have on the rest of the startup universe.
By the way, I asked Jud about this and he said, and I quote, “Dude. Come on.”