Jive Software has been around since 2001, but in the last couple of years it’s finally found its niche: building a social collaboration platform for businesses.Companies can use Jive’s products for internal collaboration, as well as to build external communities — for instance, Nike uses it to create discussion communities around specific sports.
The product is complicated and the company is in a buzz-heavy sector — anything with the word “social” in it these days seems like an IPO candidate — two reasons why it might be easy to overlook.
But we just got off the phone with CEO Tony Zingale as well as Oudi Antebi of OffiSync, which Jive just bought. They convinced us it’s time to pay close attention. Here are some reasons why.
- Big name customers. Jive has 3,000 customers with 15 million end users, including big names like Cisco, SAP, VMWare, Nike, and others. The company won’t discuss its current financials, but it claimed $30 million in revenue in 2009 and was growing at a rate of 35% as of the first quarter of 2010.
- Board of directors. Jive just added four new board members in March, including Facebook data centre guru Jonathan Heiliger (who just left Facebook) and Google’s senior vice president of Chrome, Sundar Pichai, as well as Dave DeWalt and Chuck Robel from McAfee (which is now part of Intel).
- Backing. Sequoia was an early investor, and last July the company raised a $30 million Series C round from Kleiner Perkins and Sequoia.
- Built to be social. Zingale has a lot of respect for enterprise software products that are focused on collaboration like Microsoft SharePoint, but says that Jive is better positioned because it focuses exclusively on social features and how they can help certain types of employees (salespeople, developers, and so on) get their jobs done. In contrast, big enterprise vendors have a lot of other things to do — SharePoint is also for document management, enterprise search, and has to support Microsoft’s Office franchise. As Zingale puts it “just flashing a user profile in an activity stream won’t get it done.”
- An enterprise approach. Jive is approaching the social business market like a traditional enterprise platform vendor — instead of selling an app, it sells a collaboration platform that customers can customise for their own ends, and also sells individual modules that run on top of that platform for features like social analytics, mobile use, or video. It has relationships with big systems integrator partners like Accenture and Deloitte, and its executives and board mostly come out of the enterprise software world. Zingale says “We don’t think of it as Facebook for the enterprise — that might work at a cocktail party.”
Two of our own observations:
- Enterprise software is underhyped — consumer-facing tech companies like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are so popular that it’s hard to get in early at good valuations. That’s not the case for enterprise start-ups, which are harder to understand, get less press coverage, and have much longer ramp-ups and harder sales cycles — but which can end up making TONS of money. (Most of the world’s largest software companies — Microsoft, Oracle, SAP — are enterprise focused.)
- Social-business apps are hot. Trends that start in the consumer world eventually find their way into the enterprise — look at instant messaging, blogging, smartphones, smartphones, tablets…the list goes on. LinkedIn’s IPO woke investors up to the potential of social apps for businesses. Salesforce.com bought a Super Bowl ad to roll out a collaboration product called Chatter. Yammer is making waves. Former Facebooker Dustin Moskovitz recently unveiled his social-enterprise startup Asana. Big enterprise vendors like Microsoft and IBM are increasingly talking about the importance of social in the business.
So when is Jive planning to file for its IPO?
Zingale would only say that the company is “excited about our growth trajectory.” But given the recent board additions, silence about its financials, and the heat of the LinkedIn IPO, it wouldn’t be surprising to see a filing some time this year.
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