With new round, SevOne nears billion dollar valuation; Where in the world is it headquartered?

Tom Paine

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Note 9/24: A question came up in writing this article and the response to my original headline: "With new round, SevOne nears billion dollar valuation; Boston now HQ."

Now I am not an attorney possessing the brainpower capable of determining what constitutes a company's headquarters. And issuing press releases using the dateline of a certain city does not determine where a company's headquarters is either.

However, I have noticed over the past year or so the buildup of SevOne administrative staff in the Boston area (the number according to LinkedIn is 48). And though I'm not sure what this overhead is doing, no doubt some of this represents the owners' interests (almost all investors are now Boston-based) and some the network technology hiearchy that is concentrated in the area.

And a little birdie who is an awfully well-placed source told me twice that "SevOne’s corporate headquarters is in Boston."

Now I know certainly some companies have "administrative headquarters" and "operational headquarters" and I think I'll leave it there.

But I am struck by the fact that the Boston Brahmins of the networking tech world are struggling to keep up with a pair of brilliant renegades in Delaware who, starting with little support, and a few friends and a tiny VC firm as investors, may be turning the networking world upside down.

And certainly it is important to the people of Delaware to hold on to some of what the Bakalovs created.

I got off the phone a while ago with SevOne CMO Jim Melvin, after the company announced a new round, not yet closed, that might value the company around one billion dollars. I think Melvin, a former CEO himself who CEO Jack Sweeney brought in, is more influential and knowledgeable about inside stuff than the average CMO might be. He speaks with caution, however.

Jim Melvin

SevOne, whose hardware and software helps companies monitor network performance, shows its official headquarters now as Boston, which is probably the center of the East Coast network technology industry, as well as the location of most of SevOne's investors and many of its executives. However, its not clear when the headquarters move occurred. Its investment in people and resources in Delaware and the Philadelphia region remain significant.

Melvin emphasized that the explosion in mobile devices and the need to orchestrate the flow of digital information from them has created overwhelming demand for its product architechture-which may be the only one that can scale sufficiently now to meet the demand.

Melvin mentioned that some of SevOne's customer are sometimes competitors, including perhaps Verizon or Comcast (my guesses entirely), but said SevOne tried to work with them over time to make them partners rather than competitors. My understanding has been there are important pieces of the networking solution puzzle that only SevOne has at this point, and others need it for these. Specifically, I asked Melvin whether SevOne would be working with Comcast on its newly planned business services offering, and he declined to answer, other than referring to SevOne's history with Comcast as one of its most valued customers.

As far as other competitors, Melvin doesn't think the old-line network technology vendors can keep up.

Melvin gave no specific answer on the 2015 outlook, other than to say that year end results year-over-year might look roughly the same as 2014. Annual revenue grew to $64.5M in 2014 from $39.5M in 2013, a 66% increase. So that might mean 2015 revenue could exceed $100 million, which would make a 10:1 price to sales valuation seem reasonable even given some current compression in private equity values for tech firms.

In my last conversation with Melvin in the Spring, he indicated that SevOne was sacrificing short-term profitability for growth. I don't know were the level of losses stands now, or how the bottom line effects SevOne's valuation.

It seems to me that at the moment this is largely a network game, and the biggest network that ties the most things together wins. This might even require more capital than currently committed. It does not mean, however, that the network advantage SevOne seeks to gain would be insurmountable. When you look at how quickly Amazon Web Services transformed traditional computing platforms, there is no reason to think SevOne's domain couldn't see the same rapid change. In fact, I suggest that AWS could become SevOne's principal competitor. (Note: on the eve of AWS re:Invent 2015, I would't want to fail to mention that SevOne and AWS have a technology alliance. The alliance is intended "to help enable our customers to monitor their IT performance from the datacenter to the cloud," SevOne says.

The current round could raise as much as $60 million, the Wall Street Journal reported, with Westfield Capital Management the only newly committed investor along with current investors Bain Capital Ventures, Bain-affiliated Brookside Capital, early investor Osage Venture Partners of Bala Cynwyd, and HarbourVest Partners. Some other prominent individual investors from the Philly area had previously been taken out, I believe. The new round may still attract other investors.

Melvin says he's not focused on such things, but the last-minute maneuvering described in the Journal makes it sound as if SevOne is bucking for a spot in the so-called Unicorn Club of billion dollar private company valuations, though that club has grown exponentially recently.

Prior to this round, SevOne had raised $153.5 million, mostly from the $150 million from Bain in the last round.

SevOne was founded in Newark, DE in 2005 by Vess and Tanya Bakalov. The company says it "continues to invest in its Delaware roots, constructing a 48,000 square foot, state-of-the-art research and development center on the University of Delaware's Science, Technology and Advanced Research (STAR) Campus in Newark, Delaware. The STAR campus facility opens in October, and will build upon the company’s vision of developing next-generation technologies and pushing the boundaries of digital infrastructure management for SevOne customers."

U of Delaware "Star" development center

Update 9/24: A Form D filed yesterday by SevOne showed it has raised $47 million out of the $60 million the round is open for (I think the amount raised has grown to $50 million.) VT Technology Investors joined on as an additional investor.

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