back to article Flashy upstarts facing IPO pressure. Get on with it then

Conventional wisdom has it that VC-funded tech start-ups get acquired or, hopefully, go through an IPO to become successful stand-alone companies. However, such may not be the fate of the five main surviving all-flash array (AFA) vendors in the face of fast and furious mainstream supplier reaction to their success. Step back a …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    hmmm

    Dell - The bigger issue is being privately held. Lack cash or stock to acquire. Have hedged their bets by re-selling Violin and SolidFire. Compellent stops at the low mid-range even in Dell sales guys eyes let alone customers - adding Flash doesn't change that.

    Cisco - Deep pockets. Whiptail not going to make a difference and at $500m it was pocket change. Cisco were already they were heavily invested anyway. Could buy anyone they fancy when it comes to it.

    NetApp - Loyal channels. $5bn of revenues with profit. Growth times have gone. Have money & stock. Why don't they just buy Pure? Deciding not to pick up DG for Clarion years ago, NetApp must see how this story plays out.

    EMC and HP are both out. The EMC portfolio is very overlapped. IBM has dwindling revenues attached to storage and how much longer will they continue anyway?

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Too many AFA suppliers?

    Analysts state a 50-58% y/y growth of AFA biz, fueled by big data growth ? Seems like there is room for all of them for at least next 3-5 years.

  3. LarryF

    HDS and Oracle are the remaining 'tier one' storage vendors that still do not have true AFA products, I'd keep an eye on them as acquirers. Otherwise, wouldn't be surprised to see the smaller flash players merge as they run out of cash and need to consolidate operating costs.

    my 2 cents,

    Larry

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Bubble-time

    Too many players + too much noise in market + big boys in the game = oxygen running out / bubble popping. Most names on this list disappearing over the next 12-36 months. Some faster, some slower.

    We've seen this movie before, it happens the same way in every technology shift. Lot's of people don't believe it right now, but eventually there will be an equal pendulum shift back to larger IT players as the startups wash out, the larger companies with cash reserves/diverse business models/revenue streams weather the storm, consolidation happens and companies get sick of the complexity of dealing with 58 vendors for every technology point product out there. Then another technology/process shift will come along and the cycle will happen all over again. The only thing that will change is the cycle time will decrease.

  5. virtualgeek

    Outcomes talk. Positioning is, well, marketing.

    Disclosure - EMCer here (that means I'm sure I'm biased, but I always speak based on what I personally see and experience, I'm no corporate mouthpiece)

    Chris, I've been noting that there will be an inevitable "AFA Armageddon" for a while (so hey, at least I'm consistent).

    See my Dec 2013 post here: http://virtualgeek.typepad.com/virtual_geek/2013/12/happy-holidays-merry-christmas-and-2014-top-10-predictions.html (it was prediction #3 - and I would encourage people to take a look and see if I was right or wrong).

    1) Startups thrive when the giants are "asleep at the wheel" (there are some that I think are doing that, which you note in some of your other pieces - EMC is certainly not). Startups also thrive when the giants are "unwilling to disrupt themselves" (EMC certainly is with XtremIO - and I don't think it's disruptive enough to "all flashify" yourself by making all-flash variations of architectures built in eras that pre-date NAND and SSDs - customers dig VNX and VMAX including in flash-dense configs - but AFAs they ain't). The window for AFA startups is closed (or at least closing).

    2) Startup funding is a lot more complex than people think. By the time the startup is in year 5 (and in round D,E, creative other funding rounds), and burning cash like crazy, the VCs are looking for an out. They will push to create a IPO (if not acquisition) HARD - and then cash out (and implosion often occurs right after - because employees start to bail). Remember that VCs need to get a 20x-ish return to make their model work.

    The question for a startup isn't "is your revenue growing" (that's easy) or "are you well funded" (answer will be yes) or "have you won some deals against incumbents" (sometimes we create an opportunity by not being responsive to a given customer).

    Rather, the right questions are:

    Q: "what is your burn rate?" (how quickly will you burn your latest round);

    Q: "how is your burn rate closing" (accelerating burn rate = bad in late stages);

    Q: "is your cost of sales growing or shrinking?" (if it's getting harder to sell your stuff = bad);

    Q: "is your margin shrinking?" (competitors are making life hard for you even when you win);

    Q: "what is your growth rate - not in percentages, but in absolute terms?" (when you have $5M in revenues, getting to $10M is easy - but if in that same time, others grew from 150M to $300M = things aren't going to end well).

    These are all the things that are cues to how a startup is REALLY working.

    This isn't to say "startups bad" - my goodness, they are an innovation and disruption engine (one that we leverage a lot through our own venture funding and acquisitions). But - that it's a hard battle out there.

    I personally welcome the competition, it makes us all better. But in the end, the customer speaks.

    I love that people (including an earlier commenter) that EMC has a broad, overlapping portfolio. That's one of the reasons we're doing so well - and as a public company, our results speak for themselves. We're growing in almost every segment (except the enterprise high-end, where we are doing well in terms of share, but that whole market is in the process of being disrupted).

    I would be concerned as an AFA startup that thinks we're asleep at the wheel, or not willing to disrupt ourselves - because we are well north of a $1B run rate in 2014, and accelerating. When the disruptors are #2 (or worse) in a market segment, and #1 is accelerating and growing faster than they are - it means "tomorrow will be even harder than today".

    That said - I'm sure we'll see some IPOs, and perhaps some acquisitions - but this AFA space is NOT a good place to built a startup right now. There are many other great places for startups - I would argue infrastructure isn't the best segment as a whole for startups.

    I have a healthy respect for all our competitors. Bring on the competition! :-)

  6. returnofthemus

    Cisco bought Whiptail and its Invicta array, now in temporary hibernation

    LOL, I think it's fairly safe to assume that this one is slowly being confined to the storage bin, after all it was only ever meant to be used for the server side of VB-LOCKS, not sure we'll see them making this kind of mistake again!

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