Tech Titans: Recent high-profile acquisitions make Silicon Slopes’ footprint bigger
Utah, like so many tech centers around the world, has its own Silicon (insert topographical feature here)—in this case, Slopes. With a couple of recent high-profile mergers, Silicon Slopes has gotten a lot more, well, silicon-y. One of these, Ivanti, involved homegrown firms joining forces. The other merger comprised outside companies with a significant Utah presence. In this latter scenario, we’re talking about no less than the Dell/EMC alliance.
Dell, the gargantuan maker and assembler of PCs, is on the move, and part of its massive footprint falls in the Wasatch Front. When it acquired data firm EMC in September 2016, Dell became the world’s largest privately held tech organization, bar none. The acquisition itself was the largest tech merger in history.
A tiny startup brings a tech giant to Utah
A home-grown firm named Berkeley Data Systems founded the popular backup software brand Mozy in American Fork in 2005. Massachusetts-based EMC gobbled up Mozy two years later. At the time, EMC opted to keep Mozy at the latter’s Utah Valley headquarters, and over the years EMC expanded its presence in Utah. Last year, when Dell acquired EMC, it saw no reason to uproot the EMC operation in Utah. Rather, through each upheaval, the new owners have expanded the Utah division. Today Dell’s Mozy division is nominally based in Seattle but continues the majority of its activity from its ancestral home.
“At every turn in the road there have been a lot of interesting challenges and opportunities,” recalls Vance Checketts, former Mozy COO. “It’s definitely been a dynamic environment through all of these restructurings.”
Checketts stayed with Mozy when it joined EMC, and later stayed with EMC when it merged with Dell. Today, he holds the title of vice president and general manager at Dell EMC and oversees the Utah and North Carolina territories.
“The Utah team has grown by a thousand people in the past five years,” Checketts reflects (it’s now 1,300 strong). He anticipates that growth to continue. “The Utah operation serves so many different roles in the global Dell portfolio.”
EMC is primarily a data company. Dell has been about hardware. Like EMC, many of Dell’s acquisitions—VMware, SecureWorks and Pivotal, for example—are software firms. If Dell is a three-legged stool—hardware, software and big data—the Utah node plays a role in all three legs. And with Utah being rated so highly nationwide for its business-friendly features, we can reasonably expect Dell to grow its Utah presence.
“Not only should we expect significant job growth in Utah,” as the local Dell operation expands, according to Checketts, “but the variety of job opportunities is virtually unlimited.” A software engineer could try her hand at sales or customer service. An account manager might want to move into a more tech-intensive role.
“Maybe you’re in one division and you’d like to transition laterally to a different division for whatever reason,” Checketts says. “There are just so many roles, functions and products.”
Additionally, the scope of Dell’s portfolio should provide a buffer against market volatility. “If sales of one product are flagging,” Checketts emphasizes, “it doesn’t have to mean layoffs. More than likely, some other division will be expanding and those people can be reabsorbed.”
In some small measure, Utah’s economy is now linked to a global technology behemoth. Dell Technologies counts 98 percent of Fortune 500 companies as clients. The company has revenues of $74 billion annually and employs some 140,000 people around the globe.
Michael Dell started his eponymous company in the ‘80s. Initially branded PC’s Limited, it changed to Dell Computer Corporation and later simply Dell Inc. to reflect the company’s expanded emphasis beyond computers. The company went public in 1988 and soon became the largest firm in its field. For the next two decades or so, the company fought major headwinds that knocked it back from its former dominance. While remaining a fairly significant force in the competitive landscape, its market share continued to fall as it achieved only small occasional gains followed by larger reversals of fortune.
Finally, in 2013, Michael Dell partnered with private equity to buy his namesake company and take it private. With its subsequent acquisition of EMC and various smaller firms and their respective technologies, it scarcely resembles the PC monolith of the ‘80s and ‘90s. Rather, today’s Dell encompasses a technology portfolio that includes hybrid cloud, software-defined data center, converged infrastructure, platform-as-a-service, data analytics, mobility and cybersecurity offerings.
While the future of tech is unpredictable, what’s certain is that Dell EMC is poised for further growth in Utah. The company recently opened a brand-new office building in Draper and it purchased 12 adjacent acres of land for future expansion. The new 100,000-square-foot Draper office houses 1,200 employees in software development teams, professional services, managed services, technical support engineers, and the Data Protection Cloud and Enterprise Content divisions.
A Silicon Slopes software phenomenon
Utah software company Ivanti came into being at the end of 2016, but it was no startup. Rather, it emerged from the joining of two constituent companies, one of which, LANDESK, is a Utah native with a long history.
“LANDESK has been part of the Utah ecosystem since the early ‘90s,” says Steve Daly, Ivanti CEO. “Early on, the founders recognized both the possibilities and the risks associated with IT.”
It was the risks that LANDESK addressed, “making sure that you and I are secure and productive,” says Daly. Thus evolved the extensive suite of corporate compliance and security software that has become the LANDESK mainstay.
The company underwent a number of corporate restructurings over the years. In 2010, it spun out of Avocent Technologies, a tech conglomerate that had acquired it some four years previously. Post-Avocent, LANDESK embarked on an acquisition spree, picking up eight small and promising tech firms to “expand our portfolio and our reach,” recalls Daly. “We felt like LANDESK had acquired a certain image.” That image, apparently, was that of a dated firm, pigeonholed into a single tech arena. Still highly relevant in that arena, to be sure. But sort of stuck.
After adding a wireless company, an e-gateway company, a user environment company and several others, LANDESK was ready to compete in new markets. To complete the makeover, per Daly, the firm needed a new name as well. As if on cue, the company was acquired by the equity firm Clearlake Capital, owners of Heat Software. Heat and LANDESK fused to become Ivanti.
“We had already been working on a name change with all the acquisitions,” Daly says. “We knew we needed to create a new brand, so it was serendipitous that this deal came together at the end of 2016.” New name, new direction. “We felt like this was an opportunity to emphasize what a totally different company this is than the LANDESK of the ‘90s”
To be sure, LANDESK’s core competency is still its compliance and security suite. Today, however, the horizon of possibilities is much broader.
“We think Utah has some really unique things going on in terms of its culture and its work ethic,” Daly says. “With LANDESK being a Utah company from the start, we wanted the company culture to reflect the things we love about our state.”
Ivanti offers generous family leave, and, more uniquely, gives employees two paid days a year to volunteer for various types of community service. “Or even more if needed for a given project,” Daly says. “Utah has always had a community spirit of caring and sharing, and we wanted to promote that from within. Ivanti has a culture that cares about people.”
LANDESK has always prioritized giving back. “We invested in the Jordan School District to create a coding class for girls,” Daly recalls. “We’d like to see more girls get excited about the possibilities in tech.”
Daly also emphasizes LANDESK’s long-term growth strategy as differentiating it from other tech firms. “We never wanted to be like Silicon Valley,” he says. “Our goal was never to build up some value and sell off as quickly as possible”—a strategy known as pump and dump—“but wanted to provide long-term value to our employees, investors and our community.”
And, in growth terms, LANDESK expanded from 600 employees in 2010 to 1,800 currently. A tripling of the workforce in seven years—not bad at all.
Ivanti pulls around $500 million through the Utah economy annually. While this may be small potatoes by Silicon Valley standards, it’s big by Silicon Slopes standards. “We’re proud that we’ve created a larger company headquartered in Utah,” says Daly. “In fact, Ivanti may be Utah’s largest company in terms of revenue.”
Ivanti hopes that this new beginning is just that: the seed of a much larger firm, perhaps one day on par with tech giants such as Dell EMC. Daly emphasizes that his strategy is “invest in organic growth and continue strategic acquisitions.” If successful, that’s good for Utah, because “as we acquire other companies, some of that talent and capital is drawn back here.”
Recent Tech Acquisitions
January 2016: Pleasant Grove-based 3DplusMe, a 3D scan-and-print tech startup that helps big entertainment companies like Marvel, Hasbro, MLB, MLS and DreamWorks build branded 3D experiences, was acquired by Ogden-based WhiteClouds, the largest full-color 3D print services provider in the world.
February 2016: Salt Lake-based ZAGG Inc acquired California-based mophie, bringing together two players in the mobile accessories sector.
March 2016: Salt Lake-based LANDESK (now ivanti) acquired AppSense, a provider of user profile management solutions for the secure endpoint. The deal marked LANDESK’s seventh acquisition within five years.
April 2016: Connecticut-based Legrand acquired Salt Lake-based Luxul Wireless, a networking provider for professionally installed, custom integration systems for residential and small-to-medium business (SMB) markets.
April 2016: Logitech acquired Salt Lake-based Jaybird, an audio device and fitness band maker.
May 2016: Salt Lake-based inContact, Inc., a provider of cloud contact center software and contact center optimization tools, was acquired by NICE Systems, a global provider of software solutions that enable organizations to take the next best action in order to improve customer experience and business results, ensure compliance, fight financial crime and safeguard people and assets.
May 2016: Provo-based Ancestry.com LLC, acquired Adpay, Inc., creators and operators of the Memoriams.com obituary input network. Memoriams.com joins Newspapers.com, which powers online archives, as the second newspaper-focused business in the Ancestry portfolio.
May 2016: Provo-based coding school DevMountain was acquired by publicly owned Capella Education Company, based in Minnesota.
May 2016: Lehi-based drop-shipping company Doba was acquired by Focus Technology Co., the parent company of Made-in-China.com USA.
May 2016: Salt Lake-based Myriad Genetics, Inc. acquired Sividon Diagnostics, a breast cancer prognostic company that was spun out of Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics in 2010.
May 2016: Provo-based Qualtrics acquired San Francisco-based StatWing, which offers software intended to simplify data analysis.
July 2016: South Jordan-based Merit Medical Systems, Inc. acquired San Jose-based DFINE, Inc., a medical device company whose products are directed to vertebral augmentation (kyphoplasty, vertebralplasty), as well as targeted radiofrequency ablation of metastatic spinal tumors.
July 2016: Farmington-based Pluralsight acquired Train Simple, an Adobe-centric video training company, marking its eighth acquisition in the past three years.
August: Myriad Genetics, Inc. acquired Assurex Health, a global leader in genetic testing for psychotropic medicine selection.
September 2016: Draper-based StorageCraft Technology Corp. acquired Wisconsin-based Gillware Online Backup to expand its existing cloud, recovery and backup platform.
November 2016: TDS Broadband Service LLC purchased InterLinx Communications LLC and its subsidiary Tonaquint Networks LLC in Southern Utah. Tonaquint Networks provides residential and business services via both fiber to premises and wireless internet technologies.
January 2017: Salt Lake-based Aviacode acquired the assets of Florida-based Revant Solutions, a long-time provider of facility coding outsourced services.
January 2017: Dallas-based DataBank, Ltd., signed a definitive agreement to acquire C7 Data Centers, the leading data center service provider in the Salt Lake City market.
February 2017: The AES Corporation and Alberta Investment Management Corporation (AIMCo) agreed to acquire Salt Lake-based sPower, the largest independent owner, operator and developer of utility-scale solar assets in the United States.